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Is it just me, or has this hurricane gotten an unusual amount of television coverage?
Changing the topic - it's Sunday, so here's a sermon:
"Things to do in Kuwait" - starring newcomers Barak Obama and Sarah Palin.
Much comment on McCain's Veep choice centers on the fact that she's a she. I noticed her gender myself, I must say. But Mrs G did also, as did my daughters, so I think it's okay that I did, too. My first response was that the balance on age/experience between the two Party's teams would facilitate a much welcomed issues-based examination of the candidates. Unfortunately, the Obama campaign's first response ("Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency") proved me wrong, in a manner that still has me shaking my head. (And not just because only voters can actually put her there.) The idea that his Party faithful are going to advance that attack (and indications are that they will indeed - even as Obama tacks in a different direction) just baffles me - I thought Obama gained from taking "experience" off the table.
Another early Democratic response to McCain's choice seems more sensible at first - but on further review might also prove problematic - insofar as it misses the point. From the Democrats perspective, dismissing his pick as a naive attempt to pick up more disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters makes sense if one believes - as I do - that most people choose their candidates based on their political Party affiliation, and most others based on their position on issues. Any Hillary supporters in either group should naturally gravitate to Obama - not McCain.
Here (via The Volokh Conspiracy) is some evidence for that claim. There may be specific issues where one can find some separation between the two Democratic Senators (and in many cases those differences offer individuals valid - albeit personal - reasons to pick one or the other), but from any neutral "big picture" point of view there's not a whisker of difference between them. That may rankle staunch supporters of either Obama or Clinton, but perhaps they'll find this more reasonable: any difference between the two is dwarfed by the relative size of the gap between them and McCain. (Folks viewing from a position to the right of McCain might argue that point - likewise those on the left insist they see no difference between McCain and Bush - but it's all a matter of perspective, and mine is from elsewhere.)
Now let's go another step: given the above, once the Democratic Primary campaign was down to two candidates (and setting aside the "experience" argument for a moment) with all else being equal, from an achieving political ends point of view there was nothing inherently wrong with an individual choosing a candidate based on their race or gender - other than that you were going to be accused by the other side of doing just that. But to whatever degree that holds true for the Democratic primaries (and I acknowledge that solid arguments can be made against "100%") it certainly doesn't carry over to the general election - where the ideological gap trumps race and gender. While there are those who are already arguing that "racism" is the only thing that might keep Barack Obama from the Oval Office, whatever truth there may be in that claim stems from the fear of losing votes from racists who would otherwise support Obama (let's not pretend they don't exist) - not from racists who would support John McCain anyway. White male leftists have a hard time winning national elections in America - if the DNC didn't think Obama could offset the loss of the racist wing with new voters he wouldn't have gotten the nod. (One could argue these "new voters" are also racists who would never vote for a white candidate and have heretofore sat out Presidential elections, or one could explain them otherwise.) But even as we acknowledge that small numbers have made a significant difference in recent elections, let's all join together in hoping the numbers of folks I describe above - whichever side of the aisle they find themselves on and whatever the color of their skin - are too small to matter.
But here's the point that was first brought to my attention by my daughter (who is old enough to vote) about McCain's VP choice. Should McCain/Palin win in November, this sets up a potential Palin vs Clinton election in 2012. Obviously many things will have to happen just so in order to make that possible, but none of those things are improbable - and in fact, I think all of those things are actually likely, certainly more likely than a future Clinton presidency if Obama wins in November. That thought can't escape the attention of those Hillary supporters who would otherwise vote Obama on issues. In spite of what many may think of them, they aren't stupid - and four years of a compromising (as much as anyone can be in these times) Republican President and a Democratic controlled House and Senate might not be as repulsive to them as their Party leaders might hope.
Speaking of Hope - in every analysis I heard or read regarding either of the Clinton's speeches at the Democratic Convention the common theme seemed to be did they deliver their voters to Barack Obama? It seems like a fair question, but what annoyed me about it - though apparently I'm alone in my annoyance - was an unvoiced assumption that voters for a given candidate will actually vote for whoever that candidate tells them to vote for. It's a subtle thing - highlighting the difference between choosing someone to lead you or choosing someone to represent you. I like a balance, but in this instance there seemed to be an assumption on the part of the analysts that Hillary's voters were needing some leading. Again, this was unspoken, but I got the feeling it was something that went without saying. Maybe they're comfortable with that, but I'm not, maybe that makes me a male chauvinist pig in our brave new world. Or maybe just a racist.
Oh, memo to Joe (he'll know who I mean): Don't overuse the term "Sweetie" during the debate. Once or twice should get the job done.
We're sitting around the house of Greyhawk's talking about all the political brouhaha, and our middle child makes an insightful prediction.
Palin vs Clinton 2012.
Littlest Greyhawk sounds off with "it won't matter though it'll be the end of the world".
Love the conversations my kids come up with.
For demonstrating inspirational service and citizenship in founding Soldiers' Angels, Patti Patton-Bader received the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) 2008 James E. Van Zandt Citizenship Award last week at the VFW 109th National Convention in Orlando, Florida.
Through Soldiers’ Angels, Patton-Bader has inspired hundreds of thousands of volunteers to display their citizenship by actively support American military personnel in this time of war. With over twenty different teams and programs addressing a variety of needs, the organization’s 200,000 members assist the deployed, families on the homefront, the wounded, and families of the fallen.
Patton-Bader sees the award as a testimony to the efforts and effectiveness of the volunteers she leads. “I am so appreciative that the VFW honored Soldiers’ Angels with this wonderful award, she said. “Each of our volunteers create ripples of kindness that add up to an ocean of greatness in support of our heroes, and it fills my heart that veterans know they are loved and appreciated.”
The Van Zandt Citizenship Award is given in recognition of selfless service and dedication that inspire Americans to better citizenship. The citation reads"Awarded to Patti Patton-Bader in esteemed recognition and utmost appreciation of her selfless contributions and steadfast efforts in providing support for members of the United States military and their families.
As founder of Soldiers’ Angels, her extreme generosity, benevolent care and ardent concern for America’s troops, along with her tenacious dedication, have truly made her an inspiration for countless others, thus in keeping with the highest standards of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States."
Way to go Patti!
...at least when I attempted to access. Unusually heavy traffic, maybe?
A short time later, the Secret Service opened the door and President Bush walked in. I thought we might get to shake his hand as he went through. But instead, he walked up to my wife with his arms wide, pulled her in for a hug and a kiss, and said, "I wish I could heal the hole in your heart." He then grabbed me for a hug, as well as each of our sons. Then he turned and said, "Everybody out."
A few seconds later, the four of us were completely alone behind closed doors with the President of the United States and not a Secret Service agent in sight.
He said, "Come on, let's sit down and talk." He pulled up a chair at the side of the room, and we sat down next to him. He looked a little tired from his trip, and he noticed that his shoes were scuffed up from leaning over concrete barriers to shake hands and pose for photos. He slumped down the chair, completely relaxed, smiled, and suddenly was no longer the President - he was just a guy with a job, sitting around talking with us like a family member at a barbeque.
One of the somber moments was when he thanked us for the opportunity to meet, because he feels a heavy responsibility knowing that our son died because of a decision he made. He was incredibly humble, full of warmth, and completely without pretense. We were seeing the man his family sees.
We couldn't believe how long he was talking to us, but he seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever. In the end, he thanked us again for the visit and for the opportunity to get off his feet for a few minutes. He then said, "Let's get some pictures." The doors flew open, Secret Service and the White House photographer came in, and suddenly he was the President again. We posed for individual pictures as he gave each of us one of his coins, and then he posed for family pictures. A few more thank yous, a few more hugs, and he was gone.
The remarkable thing about the whole event was that he didn't have to see us at all. If he wanted to do more, he could've just given a quick handshake and said, "Thanks for your sacrifice." But he didn't - he put everything and everyone in his life on hold to meet privately with the family of a Private First Class who gave his life in the service of his country
Godspeed Spc. Shawn Murphy. Shawn 24, of Fort Bragg, N.C., was killed by a roadside bomb Dec. 10 in Baghdad.
Thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Thank you Mr. President for recognizing them.
My sincere condolences to those who wanted to use McCain's age as justification to vote for Obama, and likewise to those supporting McCain based on Obama's inexperience. I hereby invite you all to base your votes this November on how the candidates stand on the issues instead.
And my sincere thanks to both candidates for making that a bit more likely.
Update: The official Obama response: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency"
...John Kerry was wrong when claiming (in an effort to undermine homefront morale in another war) that no one wants to be the last man to die for a mistake. In fact, al Qaeda will always have someone eager to prove him wrong.But what if I was wrong - and they do run out of willing men?
This is what we've been fighting in Iraq...
...not teenage girls with explosives strapped to them - but the people who would strap explosives to teenage girls.
According to Reuters:
Under interrogation in a police station later, she said an older woman had strapped the vest to her and told her to go near the entrance of a local school and await instructions from someone who would meet her there, police said.The AP story adds this bit of intel on the almost-"suicide" bomber:
Police in Baqouba, where the girl was caught Sunday, said she told them she was fitted with the explosives by female relatives of her husband, whom she married five months ago.The AP says she is "14 or 15" - the original MNF-I press release says 13.
If you're still reading this - congratulations. Whether she's a brainwashed "willing" participant or a completely witless victim, the people who did this to her didn't want to kill her or her other potential victims as much as they wanted to make you run away. They lost twice - this time.
But this isn't a first - there have been other times children have been used in this manner (UN report from 2007), and there have been other "suicide bombers" who've survived. This is what we (and by "we" I mean Iraqis and Americans in Iraq) have been fighting since 2003. While the war is won, it clearly isn't over. In part that's because for every man in Iraq who's willing to strap bombs on his 13 year old 'bride' (and there they are a distinct minority) there are still thousands of Americans ready to call him a "freedom fighter". That's been the topic of our ongoing series here.
(Part one is here.)
A Fuzzy Pink Jackboot
Here's another book I think I'm fortunate to own: Winter in Moscow, by Malcolm Muggeridge. I say fortunate because Like Steven Vincent's Red Zone, the book is increasingly difficult to find - but they share other commonalities. Both tell the story of one man standing against the accepted narrative to reveal the true brutality of reality that others would prefer remain hidden - even though most would rather not see it anyway.
Let's draw a line from one to the other...
As to the unquestionably repressive nature of the regime, Mrs Eardley-Wheatsheaf thought that visitors from more civilized countries ought to keep their heads and to see things in proportion. It was true, as she explained at many subsequent lectures, pursing her lips tightly, perhaps a little venomously, that Soviet officials sometimes disappeared (she accentuated the word "disappeared" to give it its full significance); and naturally she deplored such goings-on, just as she deplored the press censorship and the suppression of all opposition opinion. A the same time she had to admit that, given the peculiar conditions prevailing in Russia, administrative disappearances carried with them certain advantages which she for one was not going to overlook.
- Malcolm Muggeridge, Winter in Moscow, 1934
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever.
- George Orwell 1984 (1948)
We might reasonably have expected that with the demise of the U.S.S.R. the Useful Idiots would have shut down their operations, even if they could not bring themselves to actually apologize for having shilled for the most monstrous tyrannies in human history. Not a bit of it.
With the centenary of Lenin’s revolution looming on the far horizon, and after all the horrors of our age—mountains of corpses, oceans of lies—these fools are still with us. Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.
- John Derbyshire, May, 2000
Let’s go back to the Iraq before we invaded, there was a good education and health care system, food for everyone. That system didn’t belong to Saddam it belonged to the Iraqi, it belonged to years of creating what a civilization needed. If your parents didn’t send you to school they could be put in jail.
- Code Pink founder Jodie Evans - August, 2006
An amazing statement, given that a mere three years previously even the "liberal media" acknowledged the nature of the free education provided in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Reared on paeans to Saddam Hussein and forced to chant "Long live Saddam" whenever a teacher strode into the room, Iraq's kids will never learn quite the same way again. The Coalition Provisional Authority governing Iraq has ordered that the country's textbooks be stripped of pro-Saddam propaganda. Iraqi Education Ministry officials can't rewrite everything before school starts in September, but they're fixing what they can. Some items slated for pruning:The New York Times, October, 2003:
--Questions like this, from a second-grade textbook: "Who leads our great revolution?" Answer: "The person we are ready to sacrifice our lives for: Saddam Hussein, may God protect Him."
--Geography books that say, "Before the Baath Revolution landowners were dictators controlling the land and the people, and that's why we produced so little. After the revolution, everything went perfectly."
--Maps depicting Kuwait as a territory of Iraq.
''We had to include him in every lesson plan or we'd be in trouble with the Baath Party,'' said Nada alJalili, an elementaryschool teacher at the Tigris School for Girls in Baghdad. ''When we taught about bacteria in biology class, we explained that Saddam brought antibacterial soap and drugs into Iraq. Whenever his name was mentioned, it had be followed with 'God protect him and keep him our president.' ''But three years later, the statement "If your parents didn’t send you to school they could be put in jail" (or perhaps just "disappeared") would be used as a defense of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Whenever an adult entered the classroom, the students would stand up and recite in unison, ''Long live the leader Saddam Hussein.'' Then they would sit down while reciting, ''Long live the heroic Baath Party.''
In music classes, they learned new lyrics for traditional melodies. The beginning of one popular children's song was changed from ''The daughter of the merchant has almond eyes'' to ''We are the Baathists. We have heavy weapons.''
During a flag-raising ceremony every Thursday morning, students would chant ''Saddam Hussein!'', ''One Arab nation with an eternal message!'' and ''Unity! Freedom! Socialism!'' Then a teacher or an older student would fire a round of blanks from an AK-47 rifle.
Who could make such a claim? The same person who the year previously said this...
Were we as anti-war activists in the US really resisting? And if not, what would have to change?...even as the "resistance" slaughtered innocent Iraqis in the streets.
We must begin by really standing with the Iraqi people and defending their right to resist. I can remain myself against all forms of violence, and yet I cannot judge what someone has to do when pushed to the wall to protect all they love.
These days Jodie Evans has taken a break from defending the boot eternally smashing the human face and encouraging terrorists to slaughter women and children and has turned her energies to fundraising for Barak Obama (an effort at which she has enjoyed significant success). But as he explained in his book, in 2003 Steven Vincent met her at a party in Iraq.
More to follow...
Long time milblogger Baldilocks, gives an interview regarding Obama and a small school in Kenya named after him.
She has a lot in common with Obama - who might be the next president. Both were born to Kenyan fathers of the same tribe (the Luo) from the same province (Nyanza), who as boys came to America aboard the same airplane.
A History of Violence...
This post is about 2008. More importantly it's also about 2009 and all the years thereafter. But we're going to drop back in time just a bit first - please bear with me.
We're heading for Baghdad, late 2003 and early 2004. Steven Vincent is our tour guide - there is no better. He is dead, of course, but because of that he's frozen in time via his writing. Our vehicle for this trip is In The Red Zone: A Journey Into The Soul Of Iraq, his chronicle of his journeys in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. To read it now is to be reminded of things forgotten - or nearly so.
He titled chapter two "An image of Hadeel" - after a picture of an Iraqi girl he had seen on a wall in Baghdad...
The photo - actually a color Xerox - showed a pretty, rather plump , reddish-haired Iraqi woman smiling at the camera, a Santa Claus cap perched on her head. Her name, according to an inscription printed beneath her image, was Hadeel..."At the time of the photograph" our tour guide informs us, "the 29 year old had just gotten engaged, the nuptials set for mid-February."
The cautious reader will have a sense of foreboding at this point, a nagging urge to click away, go no further, advance no more...
Caught in an unguarded moment of laughter, hair mussed, eyes gleaming, the silly mirth of an office Christmas party behind her, Hadeel seemed like any young woman the world over who was anticipating marriage, children, and a happy future growing old with her husband.She was killed by a suicide bomber driving "a flatbed truck carrying a thousand pounds of plastic explosives and several 155mm artillery shells... It seemed the shaheed had intended to ram his truck into the CPA compound, but had prematurely detonated the device in rush hour traffic."
But Hadeel was dead.
Trapped inside the car as she waited to enter for work, Hadeel burned to death.
The people who killed her have supporters in the United States:
Were we as anti-war activists in the US really resisting? And if not, what would have to change?We'll get around to sourcing that quote later - for now I'll only hint that the author has something in common with Hadeel, though she herself was never burned to death in a car on her way to work by people with a "right to resist".
We must begin by really standing with the Iraqi people and defending their right to resist. I can remain myself against all forms of violence, and yet I cannot judge what someone has to do when pushed to the wall to protect all they love.
That last quote was from 2005, by the way. Terrorist apologists were fairly common in that year, four years after 9/11, two years into Iraq. It was a year in which three elections were held in Iraq, a year in which Steven Vincent was killed in Basra, and a year I documented a number of atrocities committed by the "resistance":
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.
Eye witnesses said (and I'm quoting one of my colleagues; a dentist who lives there) "the poor victim was so scared when ordered to walk to the searching point and began to walk back to the terrorists. In response the criminals pressed the button and blew up the poor victim almost half way between their position and the voting center's entrance".
A Shia Muslim from the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, Ahmed had joined the new Iraqi National Guard, only to be killed in his patrol car when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded.
The next day, as his family took his coffin for burial in the holy Shia city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, they were stopped at what purported to be a police checkpoint near the town of Iskandaria and ordered out of their minibus.
Insurgents wearing fake police uniforms shot and beheaded six of the mourners, including Ahmed's mother. Then they ripped Ahmed's body out of the coffin and decapitated him too.
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.
Many, if not most of the dead were children loitering and playing near U.S. soldiers at an impromptu checkpoint in Baghdad al-Jadida, a lower-middle class residential district populated by Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.
At the nearby Kindi hospital, hundreds of distraught parents mingled in blood-soaked hallways shouting and screaming as they looked for their children, many of whom were badly mutilated.
"If we are fighting a war against terrorism, terrorism impacts innocent people, so we want to show them that we're against that, and that's why we need to help these families that are so desperate."
Marla's campaign led her to Afghanistan and Iraq, while bullets were still flying and explosions were part of the daily routine. A terrorist killed her last Saturday as she and Faiz, CIVIC's Iraq Country Director, traveled to visit an Iraqi child injured by a bomb. She was 28.
The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had killed the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, but it did not say when or how. The group said "that the verdict of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, thank God."
"Egypt is one of those at the forefront of the war on Islam and Muslims," the statement said. "Its jails are full of mujahedeen." It showed a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself but, unlike in other kidnappings, it did not show the killing itself, according to the Associated Press.
Iraq's most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats yesterday to flee the country after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees.
The warning came in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq, which also claimed responsibility for the July kidnap-slaying of two envoys from Algeria and one from Egypt as well as the abduction and beheading of many other foreigners.
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.
To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.
And I watched a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children.
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.
"It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," a woman who had wounds on her face and legs told the AP. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
With no room left at the hospital, emergency workers rushed victims to hospitals in Baghdad, about 15 miles to the north. And when the hospital morgue was full, the workers were forced to place the dead in the hospital garden so family members could find them.
But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.
"They asked me to take the truck near a concrete block barrier before turning to the right and leaving it there," he says. "There, somebody will pick up the truck from you," they told him.
"But they blew me up in the truck," he says.
Ahmed's truck bomb killed nine people, including a family of seven in their house nearby.
"Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.
"That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq. Iraq is an insurgency.
"Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."
- John Murtha
Were we as anti-war activists in the US really resisting? And if not, what would have to change? <...> We must begin by really standing with the Iraqi people and defending their right to resist. I can remain myself against all forms of violence, and yet I cannot judge what someone has to do when pushed to the wall to protect all they love.All from 2005. And 2006 saw even more death and destruction. But the irony within that final quote is that 2006 is also the year that the Iraqi people did find their backs to the wall and increasingly exercised their right to resist - against the people who actually were slaughtering them in the streets. It was the year of the Samarra bombing and the year of "civil war in Iraq" headlines, but it was also the year of Anbar Awakening, and the year America figured things out. It was the year we almost lost, but almost doesn't count. And it was the year I began with a review of 2005 that ended like this:
And now 2006 has begun. As noted here early last year (and repeated)If you've been reading Mudville for any time at all you must have gotten the message: the insurgents are on the ropes. Make no mistake about it - they are capable of killing people in large numbers, but their political effectiveness is virtually nil."Capable of killing people in large numbers" - proven.
"...but their political effectiveness is virtually nil". - Three successful elections in Iraq support the accuracy of the claim. But an unexpected element has boosted the political effectiveness of the killers of children, aid workers, diplomats, and anyone else finding themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter how high the body count or how heinous their crimes, terrorists now believe they have allies who won't abandon their cause - and that faint glimmer of hope seems to be all they need.
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops. <...> To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.By 2007, they could time their most heinous attacks to coincide with US Congressional votes - and few would even notice the connection...
Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, described part of a meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday -- the same day bombs killed almost 200 people in Baghdad in the worst day of violence since a U.S.-backed security crackdown was launched there earlier this year.But 2007 was the year we won the war. We poured in troops and got things done and while strident voices on the home front demanded we abandon Iraq (and some would maintain the 2006 fiction that we were "caught in the crossfire of a civil war") none would dare argue the 2005 point that we were fighting against a righteous and noble "resistance".
"This is the message I took to the president," Reid said at a news conference.
"Now I believe myself ... that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, of Nevada.
What if we had chosen another course? What if we had pulled back instead of pushing forward? One possible answer can be gleaned from the British experience of the last three years - an experience I documented here. In compiling that I realized that in hindsight - even more so than when new - Steven Vincent's posts from Basra were amazing. They filled a huge gap in the narrative of Southern Iraq, and revealed a population begging the British to remain in force or for the more "aggressive" Americans to replace them - even as our allies acted on the theory that their presence was only making things worse, that only if left to themselves would the Iraqis work things out. The failure of that theory is evident now - in hindsight - but the warning signs were glaringly obvious if one reads the first-hand accounts of Basra in 2005 that cost Steven Vincent his life.
Rohullah Nikpai defeated world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain on Wednesday to earn the bronze medal in the men's under 58-kilogram taekwondo competition, sparking applause, wide smiles and laughter in homes, restaurants and ice cream parlors around the country.
An unintended consequence of the Iraq war was that we ignored Afghanistan/Pakistan, where things only got worse. Now many are calling Af-Pak "The Good War," but let's see how long that lasts. Our NATO allies hide behind the sturdy legs of the United States and Great Britain, who do most of the real fighting in Afghanistan, just as they did in Iraq.
Now that media attention is turning back to the Af-Pak war, let's hope that the sum of their reporting will be more informed and less biased than what came out of Iraq. If the Iraq model is followed again, the Western politicians will say whatever is expedient, bending to popular pressure created by the media, many of whom understand the bending of truth better than Einstein understood the bending of light.
Meanwhile, the press will meander around like a herd of buffalo, occasionally stampeding in unison off a cliff, and taking public perception with them to the jagged rocks below.
My recent month-long walk in the Himalayan Mountains served as a buffer between Iraq and Af-Pak. We won the Iraq war, and now it's down to relatively sporadic violence and the arguments about what we should do with all of our troops and enormous amounts of gear still remaining. Little doubt, many of those troops will soon be in Afghanistan. But if there was not enough firsthand reporting from Iraq, there promises to be even less in Af-Pak. This front likely will not end as quickly, or as neatly, as Iraq. It could take decades. And we could still lose.
and is asking for your support for his reporting there. Please consider donating if you like his work.
The last time I headed to Afghanistan, I spent far more money than I earned. Folks just didn't seem to care about that war. I am willing to stick it out, and have already proven that willingness in Iraq, but I simply will be unable to do so without generous reader support. These days support is scant. Folks seem to think I got rich off Moment of Truth in Iraq (I didn't). There will probably be no independent journalists who spend more than a month or so in Af-Pak during any given year. Same with the mainstream reporters I know. This means there will be almost no firsthand reporting from the Af-Pak battlefields, and less than a trickle comes to today. If readers want me there, I'll commit, but reader support is absolutely critical. I can't do it without you, and your support is needed TODAY. I should be in Afghanistan later this week.
Please support this mission by buying Moment of Truth today, or by making a direct contribution. Without your support, the mission will end. Thank you for helping me tell the full story of the struggle for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pfc. Vincent Hancock has won a gold medal in skeet shooting.
And Spc. Glenn Eller also won a gold medal last week in Double Trap.
There is an AMU commander who is blogging from Beijing for the Military Times . You can check back there every so often for an update on how our Army Olympians are doing.
Many of you will remember the horrible story late last year about the Brit's Military Rehabilitation pool having been closed due to lack of funding and support from the British government... and wounded British soldiers who were rehabbing at a pool being asked to leave because there were some at the pool who found the sight of the wounded veterans too upsetting.
These soldiers have fought beside our American Heroes... Some Soldier's Mom has the details on how we can extend our thanks.
Dear Private Tobacco,
just letting you you know that you've outdone yourself with your most recent 'update'. i gotta let you know that when i was celebrating Itzahk’s birthday...you remember him don't you? Have you told [THE TCN] about what a spunky little guy he is? Ah...i digress. So back to the party. the one image that i'm unable to let go of is that of Ariel Haddar clinging helplessly to a cheap little neck pillow with an image of you attached. [My wife got one of those “Daddy Dolls”] I guess that's his surrogate daddy. Either way, I can't hold back from telling you that i'm so sick of seeing that pathetic smile/grimace on your face everytime you feel the need to update us on your GI Joe mission. You can already see where i'm going with this can't you? Just remember, you are not a hero, nor will you ever be one. you are a deserter...plain and simple.
take us off your mailing list.
Joe Honan, one of the Castle's two correspondents on the ground in Iraq, is a sailor from JFCOM attached to the Marines in Ramadi:
I couple of days ago I brought a number of Anbaris to Baghdad to get visas to go the states later this year. We set up VIP air transport to get them in, and were expecting to spend the whole day there. Well the paperwork was all in order, and it went a lot faster than we thought it would. So about 3 that afternoon we’re wrapping up and one of them comes up to me.
Him: “Can we leave now?”
Me: “No sir, the flight isn’t going to leave until later tonight. We need to bus you all to the landing zone after dinner.”
Him: “Well, can you just let us out at the gate? We’ll find our own way back.”
Me: “…..O.K…. how many of you Sunni leaders want to get left in the middle of Baghdad to find you’re way to Ramadi instead of flying with an armed escort?”
Him: “Oh we’ll all go and rent a couple of cars.”
Me turning to Gunny: “You know, I think this war is officially over.”
Won? Yes. "Over" not so much. But I think we know what Joe is telling us. Iraqis are starting to feel safe without the protection of our military. One step, a HUGE step, closer to being "over."
I've been hearing these kinds of stories all across the milblogs, is anyone listening to them?
These guys are in Iraq or have recently come home:
A Soldier's Home
Matel - in Iraq
Up Country Iraq
Fobbits need ice cream too
THIS WE'LL DEFEND
101 Days With The 101st Airborne Division
Vince's experiences in Iraq
Notes from Tommie
Playing in the Sandbox
War on Big Tobacco
James Aalan Bernsen
Courage Without Fear
Something on the staff
Armed and Curious
One Marine's View
Jason's Iraq Vacation
Brad's Excellent Adventure
LT Nixon Rants
I check their hit counters when I can and they're not getting near the traffic they deserve.
(Or "are you smarter than a fifth grader?" Talking Barbie says "no".)
My contractors in Iraq article has benefited greatly from many insightful commenters. Those of us who've actually been to Iraq - or even just served in the military are aware of the important roll contractors play in everything we do. Obviously we understand the impact they have on our operations - so we tend to view any blatant effort to misinform the American public on the topic as an attack worthy of response. (We are military, after all.)
It's worth examining the tactic used in this particular attack, evident from the first paragraph of the AP story:
Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion, and when it comes to providing security, they might not be any cheaper than using military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday.The immediately obvious red flag is the word "might". If something "might" be something, it also might be something else - in this case, if contractors "might not be any cheaper", they "might be cheaper", too. A news story would be worded accordingly, an opinion piece would take the approach used in this example.
Looking into the actual CBO report cited in the AP story we discover almost immediately that there's additional deception involved in the first line.
Government (Defense, State, US Aid) contracts in the Iraq theater total $85 billion, DoD ("military") contracts account for the majority ($76 billion) of the total. Of that number, $54 billion is spent in Iraq, the remainder in neighboring countries ("the Iraq theater") ostensibly directly related to operations in Iraq. I'm not sure why one of the accurate statements that "Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $76 billion" or "Government contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion" weren't used. Congress - and the American people - should debate the expense, but likewise that debate should be grounded in fact - not something that sort of approaches fact. The CBO report presents the available facts - the authors should be commended. The AP skews them and renders much of that effort moot. That the skew is slight in this example is all the more puzzling - but the reader's concern for this level of detail will reflect their concern for how their money is spent and by extension the degree to which their opinion on the subject should be taken seriously.
So thus far in sentence one of the AP story we've seen numbers fudging and weasel words. But there's another deceptive technique employed in that opening line - surprisingly it will be exposed for what it is in paragraph 12 of the AP report:
The CBO estimated Tuesday that $6 billion to $10 billion has been spent on security work, and that the prices paid are comparable to a U.S. military unit doing that work.What happened to $85 billion? What happened to might?
Simply put, while the first paragraph is arguably "true", the twelfth is important: it provides actual facts and enables the author, editors, and publishers a defense against any claims that they didn't. After all, it's hardly their fault if a reader doesn't get their message, is it?
But paragraph one is interesting because it combines two facts
A. America is spending a lot of money on contracts in and around Iraq.
B. America uses security contractors in Iraq.
to create a factual (albeit deceptive) statement (A+B). For some reason they then hammered in the deceptive "Military" (vice "government") claim in the first fact, and the weasel word "might" in the second.
Why? One answer might be gleaned from what's thus far missing from the full algebraic expression A+B=?. (If you missed it, what's missing was the =? part. Sorry for the math, but this is an article about economics, right?) In an opinion piece an author would have suggested an answer and attempted to convince readers to agree, in a news story they might present all options or none, along with arguments for and against various solutions. In the AP story the author insists that both A and B equal something they do not - this increases the potential difficulty of solving the equation correctly.
And that's the first paragraph.
Other examples of using this technique can be found elsewhere - the sharp reader probably knows them when he or she sees them.
Here's one that was popular at the start of the surge:
A. Marines serve 8-month tours in Iraq, many are on their third or fourth.
B. Soldiers serve 12-month tours, during the surge that was increased to 15. A few are shipping out for their third tour.
"Soldiers and Marines are serving more and longer tours in Iraq, and as the Army extends tour lengths to 15 months some are preparing to deploy for their fourth or fifth rotation in Iraq"
Add in Air Force four-month tours and you can have all sorts of fun with that one.
Here's another that seems to be replayed frequently:
A. Thousands of Soldiers get re-enlistment bonuses. Infantrymen - the bulk of the Army's numbers - can get up to a maximum of $10,000 depending on their rank, experience, and length of reenlistment.
B. A very few other soldiers - those in extremely difficult to fill specialties that require lengthy training or unique and rare qualifications - can qualify for very large bonuses up to a $40,000 maximum, again based on rank, experience, and length of reenlistment.
"In an effort to retain thousands of soldiers needed during the unpopular Iraq war, the Army is increasingly offering cash bonuses of up to $40,000 to maintain it's depleted ranks."
Factual, even if they don't add up to whole truth. Again, this sort of stuff doesn't really matter - unless it shapes the national debate. But surely our elected representatives are a bit too sharp to be hoodwinked and bamboozled by this sort of first grade math problem, right? Surely they wouldn't accept that sort of ignorance and assist its further spread? Surely they know the facts about the American military....
Can both of these statements be true?
Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion, and when it comes to providing security, they might not be any cheaper than using military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday.
Government security contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $3 billion since the war began, but offer substantial taxpayer savings, according to a report released Tuesday.They're both referring to the same report - but one comes from the AP and the other was written by a blogger - and one of them wants you to know where the rest of that $85 billion is spent.
You'll probably want more details before making up your mind, but here I'll only add two: It's not at Mudville, but the blogger is me.
UPDATE 1 - SURPRISE! Andi has pulled it off again with big names at the MilBlog Conference. Pete Geren, Secretary of the U.S. Army, and General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, join us via phone for the Blogger's Roundtable panel.
And I hear there are more surprises ahead.
UPDATE 2- ANDI has an important note:
We've received some email from folks claiming they're going to attend the conference, but who haven't requested registration codes. Just an FYI - you can't show up on the day of and gain admittance. BWE has a registration policy and we need to comply with that. Those of you who are registered and are bringing spouses or family members who are not, they will need to register.
So, if you're planning to attend but haven't requested your code and registered (free for milblog attendees), please request your code.
1. To register for the milblogs (and and only milblogs) conference, first send an email (with "Request Code" in the subject line) to andi-at-andisworld-dot-com. You'll receive a registration code via return email. (It may take a couple of days or so for you receive your code. Please don't send follow-up email or worry about it unless it's been more than seven days and you've received no response.)
If you're a panelist, speaker or moderator, you will register as a speaker and will not need a registration code. Information on how to register will be emailed soon to all speakers. We're still waiting for these instructions if anyone else recieved these instructions let us know.
Greyhawk has all registration instructions compiled together here.
Blocks of rooms at various hotels in Las Vegas have been reserved for registrants of Blog World Expo. The discounted rates will only be good until August 18, so it's best to make your reservations now. THEY ARE GOIN' FAST!
Although an official "milblog" hotel has not been designated, according to Andi, survey seems to indicate that many milbloggers are staying at the Marriott Courtyard, or the Sahara. If you'd like to try to stay together as a group, please leave your lodging suggestions in the comment section here or the MB Conference site.
We're (I'm) staying at the Marriot Courtyard with nice fluffy bedding. Greyhawk on the other hand will be wandering and sleeping in the Nevada desert in full cammo gear with his ipod full of Metallica, killing his own food (hope he likes snakes and armadillos) and trying to add a turret to Some Soldier's Mom's vehicle. (sigh)
We plan on enjoying Vegas a little before the conference, we're arriving on the 18th and leaving on the 22nd. We're trying to have a gathering somewhere on Friday evening, so please leave a comment if you'd like to be in on this and we can coordinate times and location via emails.
FYI , If you want to stay at the Marriot Courtyard they still have rooms available outside the Blogworld expo block ($134.00/night) at a more expensive rate ($170.00/night) but if you're active duty military, you qualify for a discount outside the Blogworld expo block - at $108.00 a night except Sunday night ($229, not sure why that is). I suggest you go thru Blog Expo for this night. If reservations for Marriot are made online instead of called in, put GOV in the spot for Corporate/promotional code. You will need to show military ID upon arrival.
According to Military.com the (ahem) Hilton has military discounts as well for $97.00 a night. Be sure you ck to see if these apply to the BWE dates.
Here are some other Hotels in Vegas offering Military discounts.
Need to get rooms now. THEY ARE GOIN' FAST!
Also Southwest Airlines and Continental have the cheapest airfare, go thru them directly.
At the 2007 MilBlog Conference, we threw a huge baby shower for a severely wounded Marine and his wife. The gift table was overflowing with gifts from generous conference attendees. Semper Fi Wife had the honor of delivering a truck full of gifts to Bethesda Naval Hospital, and reported that the couple was a bit shocked to see the amount of gifts that complete strangers provided for their baby.
Soldier's Mom reminds us that we have the opportunity to throw a baby shower for another deserving couple this year. If you don't know the story of Jayme and Joey Bozik, you should study up. Jayme is due Christmas Eve. They are having a girl...Violet Skye Bozik. We'll continue the tradition this year with Baby Bozik as our inspiration.
Andi has details here.
Not everyone has to purchase something but a congrats and thank you for your service card would be nice.
UPDATE 3 - NEW TRADITIONS:
The MilBlog community has always been involved with raising money and awareness to, such worthy organizations and charities as Soldiers' Angels, Sew Much Comfort, The Injured Semper Fi Marine Fund and more. These organizations do so much for our wounded warriors and their families, and every dime the milblog community has raised has helped them continue their important work.
Beginning with the 2008 MilBlog Conference, we'll adopt one worthy organization per year and use our conference as an informal fundraiser. This idea came from Soldiers' Mom , a woman (a mom to all) who unfortunately had come to know these organizations quite well when her son was injured.
There will be a donation jar at the site, and whatever is donated will be sent to the organization. Checks and cash will be accepted, but checks are preferable The organization chosen this year is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your contribution is tax-deductible
We will announce this year's pick at the conference. The donation jar will be available to attendees all day on September 20th.
There is no pressure on any attendee to contribute, it's a "donate if you wish" deal, we'll raise what we can
Lookin' forward to meeting up with old friends and meeting some new faces. Hope to see you all there.
Anyone who wants to show their support for the milblogging community by purchasing a sponsorship package that is sure to get your company or organization noticed, and will help offset the costs of the 2008 MilBlog Conference. Corporate sponsorships are now available.
Thank you Andi again for all your efforts you put into this, hugs coming your way.
Any book by Bing West on Iraq is a must-read. Here's his latest: The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq.
The opening line from West's recent Wall Street Journal piece caused a bit of a stir: "The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over." That could be easily misinterpreted - read only the first and last pairs of words and you might mistakenly believe he's saying "the war is over". But there's a reason West expanded his statement beyond those four words - it isn't. A different sort of war goes on - though if it goes on in the same direction much longer it will soon be something other than war.
But there's also a reason I specified a bit of a stir - it's difficult enough to argue reasonably against even the misinterpreted version of West's comment, and impossible to provide a valid argument against what he actually said. This may cause some consternation among those who believe they can "end" this war (an option available only to the losers anyway) but we've reached another turning point - no one has risen to the challenge, and if those same folks can't argue successfully that the war is even ongoing they'll have to find some other war to end.
Which leaves a couple of immediate questions: who won and how did we do it? The sharp reader will note I've already answered one. The second is what West's book is about. Further discussion for those who don't think we've won is rather pointless - for the rest of us there's much to debate over question two. Additional troops? Better strategy? The "awakening" movement? The kindness of Mutada al Sadr?
West has offered us his answers - and while you're waiting for delivery of The Strongest Tribe you can spend a bit of time reading his two part interview at Small Wars Journal (Part one - Part two). Like me you'll probably find things to disagree with therein - though perhaps like me you'll be glad to discover that winning isn't much of a topic for debate...
The trailer for the next MilBlogs TV production debuted in The Dawn Patrol today. (I think it makes an interesting short video by itself - but obviously I'm biased.)
The actual Surge series won't focus on the war on the home front depicted in the trailer, by the way. But with newly declassified documents, a green light to share some first-hand knowledge, and a large video collection to draw from I think many of the folks involved in that debate would benefit from viewing the final product.
By the way, if you read Mudville via rss it's likely you've been missing the Dawn Patrol. Since our last major site re-design it has actually been a separate blog, although both appear side by side on Mudville's front page. And if you miss the Dawn Patrol, you miss out on a lot of fine milbloggers reporting from downrange (and elsewhere.)
Embed code for the video:
<embed src="http://blip.tv/play/AcfeQY3NKg" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="300" height="240" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true">
As always, adjust size to your specs.
The best (perhaps the only) tactical/strategic discussion I've seen yet on the Russo-Georgian conflict.
I get a bit more understanding of why South Ossetia matters to the Georgians - a mountain range between them and Russia. The Russians, however, have clearly demonstrated why such obstacles won't stop them from acting swiftly to demonstrate their love of freedom and concern for oppressed peoples of the world.
The United States must provide a "very clear timeline" to withdraw its troops from Iraq as part of an agreement allowing them to stay beyond this year, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sunday.This should be welcome news on all sides. Iraq is in an upward spiral. While "fragile" may be an appropriate adjective for that spiral it's also less so every day. And in spite of endless claims to the contrary, the US didn't intend to remain in Iraq in force indefinitely.
Based on this and other hopeful suppositions, the command’s planners projected what the American occupation of Iraq might look like. After the main fighting was over, there was to be a two- to three-month “stabilization” phase, then an 18- to 24-month “recovery” phase.And most unusually, the "timeline" is arguably favored by John McCain (May, 2008: "Senator John McCain declared Thursday that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013 and that the nation would be a functioning democracy with only "spasmodic" episodes of violence") and Barack Obama, who part ways only in the rhetoric employed to describe the process.
That was to be followed by a 12- to 18-month “transition” phase. At the end of this stage — 32 to 45 months after the invasion began — it was projected that the United States would have only 5,000 troops in Iraq.
Unfortunately for both sides in that political debate, neither wanted to acknowledge the scope of military progress achieved last year (we won the war.) After all, Democrats had invested heavily in defeat, and Republican timidity to call victory what it was can perhaps be excused by valid concerns that Democrats would ridicule them because:
1. All "reasonable" estimates indicated it would take 10 years to quell an insurgency.
2. Violence had not (and has not) vanished entirely from Iraq.
3. The knowledge that only the losers get to determine when a conflict has ended, and that al Qaeda will always have someone willing to be the last man to die for a mistake.
But consider this, from October last year:
It's likely that an increasing percentage of the "opposition" brought in (or buried) as we increase neighborhood patrols and operations will be the local trouble makers referenced in the linked report above. Barring our withdrawal, at some inevitable point they will get the majority of our combat focus in Iraq. <...> Alignment of groups and individuals throughout Iraq is ambiguous, shifting, and exceptionally difficult to determine by Iraqis, let alone US forces. So the possibility exists that that point at which local thugs with no larger alignment - ideological or otherwise - become the predominant "foe" in Iraq may pass without our immediate knowledge. But as al Qaeda crumbles, other local and regional Sunni and Shia groups join the "concerned citizens" effort, and the Sadr faction takes long overdue consideration of a political future the possibility of passing that point grows with each day.While it adapted reasonably well to dealing with an organized "insurgency" (assuming a ten-year timeline is the "standard"), the US military is the wrong agency to deal with that sort of threat. But while it would be foolish to discount the Iranian influence and continued concerns with the Sadrist movement (if not Sadr himself - the two are distinct issues) I believe that day is in our rear view mirror. (But to continue the analogy - they are, however, still moving to catch back up...)
So I'm inclined to forgive the timid for missing the win. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle the cries for withdrawal timelines have been consistent (and oddly enough, unrealistically consistent with that original 2003 plan...)
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement yesterday on war-funding legislation that would begin bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq as early as July, setting a goal of ending U.S. combat operations by no later than March.May, 2007:
After combat forces are withdrawn, some troops could remain to protect U.S. facilities and diplomats, pursue terrorist organizations and train and equip Iraqi security forces.
Reid told FOX News last week that he would like to keep the Oct. 1, 2007, redeployment timeline in any new bill but that the votes are not likely there for passage.September, 2007:
Senator Barack Obama yesterday presented his most extensive plan yet for winding down the war in Iraq, proposing to withdraw all combat brigades by the end of next year while leaving behind an unspecified smaller force to strike at terrorists, train Iraqi soldiers and protect American interests....and consistently nuanced, too. September, 2007:
The leading Democratic White House hopefuls conceded Wednesday night they cannot guarantee to pull all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of the next presidential term in 2013.But the basis for those withdrawal demands - the war is lost, the surge has failed, etc. - have been consistently wrong.
"I think it's hard to project four years from now," said Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the opening moments of a campaign debate in the nation's first primary state.
"It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting," added Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
"I cannot make that commitment," said former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
In fact, one might argue that those who made them have been like a stopped clock. But here's the odd thing about stopped clocks - they're on the whole useless but right twice a day. And when that time comes the argument that they are still wrong is foolish. But Republicans are in danger of making that argument by allowing themselves to be backed into a position that a drawdown in Iraq must be opposed if for no other reason than because the Democrats favor it. Lets be clear on one thing: rushing out the door in victory is as wrong now as it would have been a year ago to flee in defeat. The war in Iraq can indeed still be "lost" - but in addition to exiting too quickly we can also lose by dragging our feet - and while they are two distinct and separate things we can't count on folks who didn't recognize victory to realize when it's time to leave.
And the "new" argument - that victory can't be defined and/or could never be worth the cost - should at least be acknowledged for what it is - another signal that the war is won. While that victory will never be acknowledged the verbiage of defeat will soon vanish altogether from the narrative, the media will eagerly forget motive, wrongly describe those who called for withdrawal as "prescient", but rightly declare those who oppose it when the time comes as wrong.
Timelines. Victory. Get used to saying them. (They're really just words...)
Clean water is a critical need throughout Iraq. Now Iraqis in the Fallujah District of Al Anbar Province are one step closer to attaining that goal with the installation of solar powered water purification units.Would Senator Obama be for that or against it?
Marines and members of the Zobai Tribe
set up solar powered water unit near Fallujah.
A film study series. Episode one is here.
Episode two is here.
And here's episode 3.
"Are you going to ask me about Uganda?"
This one has a sudden ending! It leaves us hanging. Did he ask about Uganda? Did he announce? Did he find a way to pimp his web site? What happened next?
But here's the answer:
A film study series. Episode one is here.
Episode two is here.
"We want to make sure that the entire world knows about your struggle," he tells the Ugandans. Sadly, this video visit to a land torn by war and sexually transmitted disease has since vanished from Edwards' web page - and most of the rest of the 'net. That's why we're proud to offer it here.
If Rielle Hunter pioneered the point camera at subject and push little red button technique in the previous installment of this series, she certainly perfected it here. To add authenticity to the outdoor scenes, no effort whatsoever has been made to reduce the background noise. Fortunately, the Ugandan's words are sub-titled, and while John Edwards' comments aren't, we don't need to actually hear his every word to know and share his concern - this film is that good.
Episode four is here.
(Episode one is here.)
"The tax payers are paying for this"
"This is not right - and all of us know it's not right. This is about responsibility and it's about basic human morality."
Here's the second John Edwards video by up and coming film maker Rielle Hunter. Serious film study students will be interested to see this one, in which a technique of pointing the camera at the subject and pushing the red button is pioneered. Many amateurs might insist this is the sort of thing their children do on vacations - but amatuers aren't paid six-figures to do this stuff.
The audio is poor quality - a masterful technique to get the viewer to watch and listen carefully - and the editing is somewhat choppy, but from what I can gather this episode begins aboard Edwards' Lear Jet, in which he is flying somewhere to attack retail giant Wal Mart on behalf of the "other America". If you don't come away from this with a real appreciation for Edwards efforts then you must be emotionally stunted. It's obvious to this reviewer at least that Ms Hunter worked hard, applied her talents, and earned every penny of her pay.
And here's episode 3.
Why I am moving into video production:
She had been hired to produce Web documentaries for the Edwards campaign, at a cost of $114,000, even though she had no filmmaking experience.It's going to be hard to keep people out of a career path where you can bring in that kind of dough with no experience.
But while most of the videos created by Rielle Hunter for John Edwards have vanished off the web, we've got one - and offer it here for academic purposes as an excellent example for other aspiring film makers.
Great opening quote: "I've come to the personal conclusion that I actually want the country to see who I am.. who I really am. But I don't know what the result of that will be. But for me personally, I'd rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken Doll that you put up in front of audiences. That's not me, you know?"
Another great quote: "I want to see our Party lead on the great moral issues."
But this is the topper: "You think most people have any idea what were doin' when we're not on the stage? All this - everything else that we do, behind... ...do you think most normal Americans have any idea what we do? We train to be careful. ...I have to tell myself, I'm trying to get hard to do it."
But I'm not sure I heard this part right: "I'll get into a little Rielle in my head, I can see it happening and I have to pull myself back out."
Update: More video found - our film study continues with episode two here.
Although competing with the Olympics and John Edwards for space in America's news reports, the story of developing conflict in Georgia has been reported in America.
Lesser known on these shores is the fact that Georgia currently has a combat Brigade serving in Iraq, in Wasit province, not far from the border with Iran. Some 'fog of war' confusion now surrounds the future of that Brigade. According to the AP
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told CNN television Friday the troops would return urgently to Georgia after fighting erupted in South Ossetia....but according to the Telegraph, the recall might or might not be total:
"One brigade of Georgian forces is in Iraq and we are calling it home tomorrow," Saakashvili said in the interview.
Georgia will withdraw 1,000 soldiers from its military contingent of around 2,000 troops in Iraq to help in the fighting against South Ossetian separatist rebels, a top Georgian official said.
Georgia has asked the US military to provide aircraft to move all Georgian troops home from Iraq as fighting rages in South Ossetia, a US military official said Friday.
The Long War Journal reports the Brigade in Iraq represents one of only five in the entire Georgian Army, but even if swift redeployment were possible, the additional numbers could represent little more than a token resistance against potential Russian numerical superiority.
A good round-up here.
The Babil operation is likely a precursor to an operation in Wasit province, which may be launched in conjunction with the Diyala offensive. Wasit sits on the eastern border of Babil and the southern border of Diyala.. Ponder the situation in this manner: Georgia is already an American ally in time of war, and they've now been attacked on the homefront. The obvious question: how far will the US go to back a consistent ally in Iraq? The answer will send a message to the world.
Wasit is the only central-southern province that has not been a focus of major combat operations. The Iraqi military started its rolling offensive in Basrah in March, and then proceeded to tackle the provinces of Dhi Qhar, Qadisiyah, Maysan, and now Babil. All of these provinces are major areas of operations for the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups.
Developing, as they say.
Update - AFP:
KUT, Iraq (AFP) — Georgia will withdraw its entire 2,000-strong military contingent from Iraq within three days to help battle South Ossetian separatist rebels, a senior Georgian military official said on Saturday.And another:
"We were ready to leave today, we are ready to leave immediately but we are waiting for the green light from Tbilisi," said Emzar Svanidze, a major with the Georgian military operation in Kut, where 1,700 troops are based.
"For the moment they are asking us to wait," he told AFP, adding that 300 soldiers based in Baghdad as well as those in "another location" had yet to arrive in Kut.
The Georgian contingent has been taking part in an operation with US and Iraqi forces to clear the south-eastern corner of Diyala province, north of Baghdad, a known al-Qaeda stronghold.
Some 150 Georgian soldiers also guard the Iraqi Parliament building as well as other key structures inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
In addition, one battalion is helping to support the Iraqi security forces in Wasit province, south of the capital, near the Iranian border.
(A short version of this post can be found here,)
From the get go, they tried very hard to not be American. They succeeded.
April, 2003 - The Guardian:
Senior British military officers on the ground are making it clear they are dismayed by the failure of US troops to try to fight the battle for hearts and minds.May, 2003 - The New York Times:
Yesterday, British officers described the very different approach between UK and American soldiers by pointing to Uum Qasr, the Iraqi port south of Basra and the first urban area captured by US and UK marines. "Unlike the Americans, we took our helmets and sunglasses off and looked at the Iraqis eye to eye," said a British officer.
While British soldiers "get out on their feet", Americans, he said, were reluctant to leave their armoured vehicles. When they did do so - and this was the experience even in Uum Qasr - US marines were ordered to wear their full combat kit.
One difference emphasised yesterday by senior British military sources was the attitude towards "force protection". A defence source added: "The Americans put on more and more armour and firepower. The British go light and go on the ground." He made it plain what approach should be adopted towards what he called "frightened Iraqis".
British defence sources contrast the patient tactics deployed by their troops around Basra and what they call the more brutal tactics used by American forces around Nassiriya.
The British military put the difference in approach down to decades of training as well as experience - first in colonial insurgencies in Malaysia, then in Northern Ireland and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
What is striking is the emphasis senior British military figures are placing on the differences between their approach and that of the Americans on the ground. They have gone out of their way to draw attention to nervous, "trigger-happy" US soldiers.
British military sources are now concerned that the experience in peacekeeping and unconventional warfare of British troops will mean they will be in Iraq long after the Americans have left, even for years, in policing and humanitarian operations.
Shortly after George Bush was elected president, the former chief of defence staff, Lord Guthrie, told the Guardian that the new administration was moving towards light, flexible forces which can "get there quicker but not stay around for ever". He added: "The Americans talk about the warrior ethic and ... that peacekeeping is for wimps."
Iraq has shown that the quick-light-flexible force strategy has not worked. The concern here among military chiefs is that the experience will mean the US will want to get out of places even quicker, leaving the British and others to continue fighting the battle for hearts and minds.
Under Low-Key British Rule, Basra Shows Signs of Coming Back to LifeJune, 2003, - The BBC:
When the British finally entered the city on April 6, they were greeted with mass lawlessness, widespread looting and armed gunmen roaming the streets. The people here, who for the most part have expressed overwhelming gratitude for being rid of Saddam Hussein, were too scared to leave their houses, much less welcome the troops.
Those early days of chaos created an impression among the population that the British are still struggling to counter.
Now they use intelligence to strike at known criminals and troublemakers, but overall they try and maintain a low profile whenever possible, wearing berets instead of helmets and not setting up checkpoints.
It is a strategy meant to foster a climate of trust, counter the image of the soldiers as occupiers and encourage Iraqis to take over important tasks themselves. But for people still worried about the safety of their homes, the subtlety of that method frustrates many who are still worried about lawlessness.
This week British soldiers began an aggressive attempt to change perceptions. They started distributing an Arabic-language paper, Azzaman, around the city.
Six British military police officers have been killed and eight other servicemen wounded in two separate incidents in south-eastern Iraq.
Both incidents happened at the edge of the British area of operations within the country, in the region of the town of Amara.
They mark the heaviest losses to enemy action suffered in a single day by US-led coalition forces since the war in Iraq was declared largely over on 1 May, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.
It is also the heaviest loss of British life in a single hostile incident since UK forces entered Iraq at the start of the war in late March.
...British troops operating in and around the second city of Basra had until now seen no serious post-war attacks, often dispensing with their helmets and flak jackets to present a less threatening sight to local people.
October, 2003 - The Independent
Crime-racked Basra calls on British troops to get tougherSpring, 2004 - Steven Vincent:
By the still waters of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, a few dozen university lecturers and professors gather with black banners to protest at the armed British troops manning the ornate gate of Basra's presidential palace. Their colleague, the head of the engineering department, has just been murdered. They know who the killers are, they say, and accuse the British of doing nothing about it.
"If you can't keep the peace," Dr Aziz al-Hilfi shouts at the soldiers, "we shall turn against you!" Like many of his colleagues, he went to university in Britain and has never demonstrated before. "You can hire a killer here for 100,000 dinars [about pounds 40]," he says. "The Iraqi police are useless; they do nothing. The British drive around, but they aren't protecting us. Do they want the 1920s again?"
Frustration at the lack of security in Basra is reaching boiling point. Just up the road from the protest, doctors at Basra's main teaching hospital are treating Abbas Khudayir, who has been shot nine times for the pounds 200 he was carrying to buy a motorbike. He will survive, but the doctors aren't so sure about Britain's chances of keeping the lid on the growing discontent. "They need to be tougher", says Dr Nezar Al-Mafooz, himself educated in Britain. "They need to shoot more."
Last spring, my friend Nour and I sat down in Basra's Hamdan Restaurant with Khalid and two other corresondents from his newspaper, where they told me about the difficult problems of carrying out "true" journalism in their country. Under the passive noses of the British, they complained, criminal gangs had taken control of Iraq's second largest city, earning money through extortion, fuel smuggling and liquor and drug dealing. Moreover, favoritism, bribery and graft--particularly through the use of phony contracting--was rampant.October, 2004, The Telegraph:
"We can't do our jobs as journalists," one complained. "If we push too hard on certain issues, we can get in trouble. Or worse, we can get killed." When I asked what these "certain issues" were and with whom, he shook his head. "I'd rather not say." I didn't press him on the issue, for such was the climate of fear in Basra that to even suggest the existence of problem could result in a gangland-style warrant of execution.
US tactics condemned by British officersDecember, 2004 - Steven Vincent:
Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.
One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.
The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".
Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.
"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."
"The British response in Iraq has been much softer. During and after the war the British set about trying to win the confidence of the local population. There have been problems, it hasn't been easy but on the whole it was succeeding."
The officer believed that America had now lost the military initiative in Iraq, and it could only be regained with carefully planned, precision attacks against the "terrorists".
"The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach - it has failed," he said. "They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people.
"Our objective is to create a stable, democratic and safe Iraq. That's achievable but not in the short term. It is going to take up to 10 years."
The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies.
Recently I received an e-mail from Khalid, a journalist I met in Basra, where he was an up-and-coming reporter for one of the city's largest newspaper. At the time, he was a very pro-American young man, who, like many Iraqis, felt anxious--but excited--about the future of post-Saddam Iraq. His correspondence, therefore, came as an unpleasant surprise I wish I could offer better news, but if I'm going to invite my friends to contribute on this blog, I must present their comments as they write them, negative assessments and all.March, 2005 - The Washington Post:
Steven, Basra looks like a town in the American West, where gangsters and killers become the only authority and anyone who tries to discover their crimes will be shut-down and presented as a criminal and an outlaw!.
It is like this: the gangsters control the government and steal money through many different ways, but most particularly through fictitious contracts. Their militias wear the uniform of the Iraqi National Guard. They are loyal only to their party chieftains.
Finally, I could not take it any longer and quit my journalism job. I'm no longer "on the ground" in Iraq. I now live in Saudi Arabia and don't know when or if I will return to Basra.
Picnic Is No Party In the New BasraMay/June, 2005 - Steven Vincent, National Review:
Uproar Over Armed Attack on Student Event Redraws Debate on Islam's Role and Reach
BASRA, Iraq, March 28 -- Celia Garabet thought students were roughhousing. Sinan Saeed was sure a fight had erupted. Within a few minutes, on a sunny day at a riverside park, they realized something different was afoot. A group of Shiite Muslim militiamen with rifles, pistols, thick wire cables and sticks had charged into crowds of hundreds at a college picnic. They fired shots, beat students and hauled some of them away in pickup trucks. The transgressions: men dancing and singing, music playing and couples mixing.
...20 to 40 militiamen loyal to the militant young Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army charged into the two-acre park of overgrown grass, concrete picnic tables and paths of colored tiles. Some of them wore checkered headscarves over their faces, others black balaclavas. They carried sticks, cable, pistols and rifles, a few with a weapon in each hand. They were accompanied by two clerics in robes and turbans: Abdullah Menshadawi and Abdullah Zaydi.
Garabet, an unveiled woman from an Armenian Christian family, never saw her assailant. He struck her twice in the back of the head with his fist. "I was afraid to turn around," she said.
She stumbled, then headed with others toward the black steel gate. Militiamen were shouting "Infidels!"
"It was chaos," she said. "Everyone was yelling."
"The issue is settled," said Mohammed Musabah, who took over as governor of Basra the day of the melee. He acknowledged that police had not arrested anyone, as students had demanded. But, he said in an interview, "We spoke with them in a stern tone. Both sides wanted to resolve it by way of dialogue."
Basra, Iraq — It’s been a little over a year since I was last in Basra, and at first glance little has changed. The buildings are just as dilapidated, livestock still periodically cross the rubble-strewn streets, and the once beautiful canals remain clotted with trash. The heat, too, is the same, although the summertime onslaught of humidity that afflicts this southern port city — situated about 40 kilometers from the Arabian Gulf — is still months away.May, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
Beneath the surface, though, this is not the easy-going municipality of 1.5 million people I recall. For one thing, I can no longer wander the streets, take a cab, or dine in restaurants for fear of being spotted as a foreigner: Kidnapping, by criminal gangs or terrorists, remains a lucrative business. Instead, for safety’s sake, I’m tied to my hotel, dependent on expensive drivers, unable to go anywhere without Iraqi escort. “You really shouldn’t be here at all,” a British-embassy official warned me.
Seems the MNF (as in "Multi-national Force," the preferred term these days for the "Coalition") was turning over a newly-refurbished border fort to Iraqi control and did I want to go? Sure, why not, throwing on a blue helmet and flak jacket, `s only gonna take an hour or two, right?May, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
Off we go, crowded into the back of the third Snatch--Emile, a civilian media coordinator for the military, and three soldiers, Roger, Joan and Marcia (all names have been changed), while up front is a driver and another Tommie in the shot-gun seat. The only air circulation comes from a laughably ineffective a/c system and a open portal in the vehicle's roof which is usually filled by a couple of soldiers standing up and scanning the surrounding environment for potential bad guys. (These Land Rovers evidently proved useful in Northern Ireland, where they allowed the British to patrol streets without appearing too aggressive, as they might in U.S.-style Humvees. As one English officer explained to me, "We've had decades of experience in this sort of thing.")
We bounce north, along back roads Basrah--palms, rivers, cows, goats--the scenery looking a bit Vietnamish here--grassy fields, irrigation ditches and small villages producing streams of children scampering out to wave at our convoy. We cross the Shatt, see a tanker plying the gray-green waters, plunge back among date groves and crumbling hovels crowned with satellite dishes...donkeys, feral dog packs, women in abiyas waiting for a bus or taxi cab...on and on...gets hot crammed in the back of a Snatch, jouncing on the pitted roads, the soldiers beginning to sweat from the kilos of equipment--or "kit"--they carry...
On and on. And on. It soon becomes apparent that the British are, well...lost. Several times the convoy pulls over, middle-of-the-roadway conferences, maps pulled out, soldiers pointing in various directions, squinting in the blazing sunlight--Emile and I, civilians, cannot dismount and instead remain roasting in the vehicles, the sun beating fiendishly down through the open portal--
Still, they are soldiers. Back in Basrah--five hours and a couple of Tommies who succumbed to heat exhaustion later--the Brits have to clamber out of their Snatches each time we stop, the idea being they present a tempting target when halted in traffic. (Emile and I, however, have to remain in the vehicles, giving me a whole new appreciation of the term "sitting duck.") This means for Roger, Joan and Marcia its out of the Snatch, back in, out, back in, out...it's hot, they're tired and lugging kilos of kit, nary a gripe or complaint, I try to work the back door a little to help them out but fear I'm only getting in the way...
And indeed, they are soldiers. A 16-year vet, Joan, for one, has been all around the world--from Iraq to Afghanistan to tsunami relief work in the Indian Ocean. At one point in our sojourn, I was telling the soldiers about how the religious fundamentalists have seized control of Basrah (restricted to base except on patrol, the average Tommie is rather ignorant of political life in the city)--noting, for example, how they've targeted hairdressers for assassination. With this, Joan grunts, "I hate hairdressers." I give her a quizzical look and she adds by way of explanation, "My ex-husband ran off with a hairdresser when I was in Bosnia."
Jesus. I mean, Jee-zus. Crumbling houses, muddy streets, broken down cars rotting in pools of motor oil, plastic bags--the scourge of the Iraqi environment--ensnared on coils of concertina wire...this is a booming port town?June, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
We'll call him Ahmed. He's accompanied by some unarmed guards as we sit in his living room. With Mahmoud interpreting, I begin the conversation by telling Ahmed that I'd read Umm Qasr is a southern Iraqi success story, at which point he cuts me off. "Propaganda," he grunts in English.
Turns out, the town of 60,000 people is not doing well at all. The main difficulty seems to be water--its barely useable even for laundry, let alone drinking. UQ used to draw water from four underground wells, but the wells, or maybe the pipes servicing them, became corrupted, resulting in a high degree of salinization. NGOs are doing nothing, "they claim they have set up project and submitted proposals but..." Ahmed shrugged. The UN built a two kilometer pipeline that provides salty washing water. The Brits won't do much either, beyond offering some token material and the Iraqis lack the resources to do the job themselves. The result is that UQ has to truck in most the water they use, adding further costs to their city budget.
The sharp ripping sound erupted somewhere close to the hotel. Automatic weapon fire, I thought, flashing back to Baghdad, where the same noise was--and still is--a constant part of city life. Perhaps it's just a wedding. But it was 9 a.m., and besides, everyone knows that the Hauwza--the religious establishment in Najaf--has outlawed the casualty-producing custom of celebrating nuptials by firing guns into the sky.June, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
A few hours later, we got the news. On the street just behind the funduk, four masked men in a Toyota emptied their AKs into a parked car, killing a police colonel from Zubair, who had come to Basra for medical treatment. The assassins are unknown, as is their motive, although rumors have it the murder had something to do with "smuggling."
According to Dr Zaineldin, his institution lacks the one facility you'd expect in a well-equipped Iraqi hospital--an emergency ward. "The British asked us to close it down," he explained. Why? Seems it was encouraging young tribal bucks to go out a-feuding, get themselves shot up, then receive top-notch treatment in the most advanced medical center in town.
July 2005 - Steven Vincent, The New York Times:
"No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump." Mufeed al-Mushashaee, the leader of a liberal political organization called the Shabanea Rebellion, told me that he felt that "the entire force should be dissolved and replaced with people educated in human rights and democracy."August, 2005 - National review:
Unfortunately, this is precisely what the British aren't doing. Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations. When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate.
The results are apparent. At the city's university, for example, self-appointed monitors patrol the campuses, ensuring that women's attire and makeup are properly Islamic. "I'd like to throw them off the grounds, but who will do it?" a university administrator asked me. "Most of our police belong to the same religious parties as the monitors."
Meanwhile, the British stand above the growing turmoil, refusing to challenge the Islamists' claim on the hearts and minds of police officers. This detachment angers many Basrans. "The British know what's happening but they are asleep, pretending they can simply establish security and leave behind democracy," said the police lieutenant who had told me of the assassinations. "Before such a government takes root here, we must experience a transformation of our minds."
According to an e-mail from Vincent's wife sent on Tuesday night, Vincent and his Iraqi translator, Nour Weidi, were "snatched in front of a bank on Tuesday, August 2nd at 6:30 P.M. local time. Two men drove up, grabbed them, threw them in a car and took off. Nour dropped her ID on the street, which is how the British were able to figure out who it was." Hours later, the American embassy in Baghdad would confirm Vincent dead, and his translator seriously wounded. Vincent's body was found on the side of a highway. He had been shot multiple times in the head.
September, 2005 - The Guardian:
Day of violence in Basra exposes myth of trust between British and Iraqi forcesNovember, 2005 - The Spectator:
The storming of the Basra prison by British armoured vehicles and troops shatters the assumption, promoted by government ministers, that the security situation in British-controlled southern Iraq is getting better. Far from the picture painted by British ministers that British troops and the Iraqi security forces - trained by British troops - are working well together in mutual trust, last night's events suggest the contrary.
Ironically, British military commanders in Basra and the area of southern Iraq they control have recently been criticised for turning a blind eye to infiltration by radical militias of the Iraqi police. This may have caused the two undercover soldiers - almost certainly special forces troops - to suspect the apparently genuine Iraqi police who stopped and fired at them.
Yesterday's events appear to have broken the uneasy peace that has existed in the British-run southern sector of Iraq for the past two years. Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, British troops in the south have enjoyed relative calm compared with US troops in Baghdad and the rest of central Iraq.
The proverbial library of successful counter-insurgencies -- a woefully small collection -- is dominated by the near-legendary campaigns of the British, including those carried out in Malaya, Aden, and Oman. Until recently, some observers thought it entirely possible that the British effort in southern Iraq would join this catalog of battlefield achievements. Those hopes -- once prevalent among the media and military experts -- died a most public death early this fall, when British soldiers rushed to rescue two special forces operatives that had been arrested by Iraqi police. After storming the compound, the troops were confronted by squads of heavily armed militiamen who had strategically intermixed themselves with the riotous crowd. The resultant firefight saw British armored vehicles pelted with Molotov cocktails and British soldiers wounded by hurled explosives.November, 2005 - The New York Times:
At home, Britons were stunned by the graphic footage of their soldiers being assaulted in a city thought to be "safe," especially in comparison to the blood-soaked urban areas of the Sunni Triangle which dominate news coverage emanating out of Iraq. The violent imagery was only the latest and most troubling indication of the British military's failure in Basra and its environs, a disastrous turn of events which seemed unthinkable two years ago, when British troops were welcomed into Basra with relatively open arms.
The root of this failure stems from the very strategy that was once lauded as the antidote for insurgent violence. Known as the "soft approach," the British strategy in southern Iraq centered on non-aggressive, nearly passive responses to violent flare-ups.... As a symbol of their faith in stability-by-civility, the British military took to donning the soft beret while on patrol, avoiding the connotations of war supposedly raised by the American-style Kevlar helmets.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion, this "soft" approach seemed remarkably successful, especially when juxtaposed with the chaos that had engulfed other parts of Iraq. Basra seemed to adapt relatively well to the new order of things, with little in the way of street battles or casualties. Both the British and American media -- ever-ready to point out the comparable failures of American arms -- energetically hailed the peaceful and stable atmosphere in Basra as a significant indicator of the virtues of the British approach, upholding it as the tactical antithesis to the brutal and aggressive Yanks. The Dallas Morning News reported in 2003 that military experts from Britain were already boasting that U.S. forces in Iraq could "take a cue from the way their British counterparts have taken control of Basra." Charles Heyman, editor of the highly-respected defense journal Jane's, asserted: "The main lesson that the Americans can learn from Basra and apply to Baghdad is to use the 'softly-softly' approach."
The reporting also featured erudite denunciations of the rigid rules of engagement that governed the United States military, while simultaneously championing British outreach. Ian Kemp, a noted British defense expert, suggested in November 2004 that the "major obstacle" in past U.S. occupations and peacekeeping efforts was their inability to connect with locals due to the doctrinal preeminence of force protection. In other words, had Americans possessed the courage to interface with the Iraqi, they might enjoy greater success.
It did not take long before the English press allowed the great straw man of a violent American society to seep into their explanations for the divergent approaches. The Sunday Times of London proclaimed "armies reflect their societies for better or for worse. In Britain, guns are frowned upon -- and British troops faced with demonstrations in Northern Ireland must go through five or six stages, including a verbal warning as the situation gets progressively more nasty, before they are allowed to shoot. In America, guns are second nature." Such flimsy and anecdotal reasoning -- borne solely out of classical European elitist arrogance -- tinged much of the reporting out of Basra.
AS A RESULT OF THE EFFUSIVE media celebration, even some in the British military began believing their own hype, with soldiers suggesting to reporters in May 2003 that the U.S. military should "look to them for a lesson or two." As a British sergeant told the Christian Science Monitor: "We are trained for every inevitability and we do this better than the Americans." According to other unnamed British military officials, America had "a poor record" at keeping the peace while Basra only reinforced the assertion that the British maintain "the best urban peacekeeping force in the world."
The city's chief of police ordered his police to stand down and refuse to assist the British, which many British officers took as a tacit exhortation for police to aid Sadr's forces. Iraqis themselves were quickly brought into line by the extremists, as numerous Iraqi employees of the British government were murdered and tortured, their hands displayed on pikes outside of British headquarters.
The British response to these provocations was virtually non-existent, with army officials heeding warnings by "local leaders" that they avoid retaliatory measures. This inaction seemed only to embolden the Shi'ite extremists and their allies in the militias, who -- over the next six months -- began to accelerate their already advanced designs of transformation and intimidation.
The British government's inability to adjust to the rising danger posed by Shi'ite militias put British soldiers in an untenable position. Sworn to their ethos of non-intervention, the British found themselves virtually paralyzed in responding to provocations. Shi'ite militias quickly preyed upon this tactical contradiction, with attacks against British forces steadily increasing throughout 2004 and into 2005. The gunmen of the Mahdi Army regularly dueled with British soldiers, who were made especially vulnerable due to their command's insistence that they travel in unarmored vehicles, so as not to threaten the populace. Ridiculously, the British Army often found themselves fighting the very police they had trained months prior. This equivocation-under-fire policy of London has been disastrous for British morale, with high-ranking officers -- such as Lt. Colonel Nick Henderson, commander of the celebrated Coldstream Guards -- recently resigning out of disgust for the government's adherence to a non-armored and non-aggressive policy.
Due to the soft-handed British response to extremist escalation, Basra now teeters on the precipice of mob rule. While the kidnapping and murder of reporter Steven Vincent in August attracted significant Western attention, it was only one example of the trend towards anarchy in Basra. On the streets, bearded fundamentalists harass local youth, threatening them with death unless they adhere to stringent religious edicts. British-friendly politicians, liquor-store owners, and university students are routinely "disappeared," while women are being pushed back into home-bound seclusion. Hezbollah flags and posters of the Ayatollah Khomeini adorn government buildings. The all-powerful militias, such as the Iranian-trained Badr Corps, flaunt their new power, taunting the coalition with invective while dominating the city's government.
Once the centerpiece of the British plan to maintain order using Iraqi forces, the British-trained Basra police force is now thoroughly infiltrated by violent militia groups who wear blue by day and ski masks at night -- the only remnant of their loyalty to the West being their massive stocks of British-supplied weaponry. The exasperated chief of Basra's police recently stated to reporters that over half of his force answered to militia leaders, and that peace was being maintained only through appeasement. With Basra civilians cowed and the levers of civic power increasingly coming under the domination of fractious religious parties, it has become tragically apparent that, for all intents and purposes, British forces have been relegated to the role of mere spectators.
The tactical realities of Basra did indeed prescribe a different approach to peacekeeping -- but did not entail a virtual surrender of control to extremist elements.
Blair Says a Troop Cut in Iraq Is a 'Possibility' Next YearJanuary, 2006 - CNN:
LONDON, Nov. 14 - British officials have begun to talk, however gingerly, about withdrawing their troops from Iraq.
On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was "entirely reasonable" to "talk about the possibility" that the troops could begin leaving by the end of next year. The discussion, he added, "has got to be always conditioned by the fact that we withdraw when the job is done."
Gen. Sir Mike Jackson, who leads the British Army, told the BBC that a British departure by the end of 2006 was "well within the range of what is realistically possible."
He said that he was "quite encouraged" by a visit last month to Iraq and that he found the political achievements there "in some ways quite remarkable."
100th British soldier dies in IraqFebruary, 2006 - The Daily Times:
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two British soldiers have died in southern Iraq this week, bringing the number of the UK force to die during the conflict to 100, a Ministry of Defence statement said.
Corporal Gordon Pritchard, 31, from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards died after his convoy was struck by a blast in the southern port of Umm Qasr in Basra province on Tuesday. Three other soldiers were wounded in the same incident -- one seriously.
Anti-war campaigners in Britain seized on the 100th death to once again demand Britain pull out of Iraq.
Explosives packed into the wash area of a Shia mosque in the southern city of Basra blew up on Sunday, causing minor injuries, police and witnesses said.October, 2006 - The Telegraph:
Police said they suspected three men wounded in the mosque attack were planting the bomb when it exploded prematurely.
British to evacuate consulate in Basra after mortar attacksFebruary, 2007 - The BBC:
The British consulate in Basra will evacuate its heavily defended building in the next 24 hours over concerns for the safety of its staff.
Despite a large British military presence at the headquarters in Basra Palace, a private security assessment has advised the consul general and her staff to leave the building after experiencing regular mortar attacks in the last two months.
The move will be seen as a huge blow to progress in Iraq and has infuriated senior military commanders. They say it sends a message to the insurgents that they are winning the battle in pushing the British out of the southern Iraqi capital, where several British soldiers have died and dozens have been injured.
A skeleton staff will continue to man the building until it is deemed safe enough for the rest to return. A Foreign Office spokesman insisted last night that its officials were "not bailing out".
"This is a temporary measure as a response to increased mortar attacks," the spokesman said. "Core staff will remain at Basra Palace and the consulate will continue to maintain a full range of activities."
The Foreign Office and Dfid operation in southern Iraq has been criticised for the poor handling of economic and political regeneration in the area.
While £14 million has been spent on refurbishing the consulate, including a new portico, hardened roof defences and swimming pool, it has spent just £12.5 million on reconstruction that included repainting a tower in the city.
The palace, which is surrounded by a 30ft blast wall and graced with manicured lawns, is in the same fortified compound as 800 British infantry.
Blair announces Iraq troops cutFebruary, 2007 - The Independent:
Some 1,600 British troops will return from Iraq within the next few months, Prime Minister Tony Blair has told MPs.
He said the 7,100 serving troops would be cut to 5,500 soon, with hopes that 500 more will leave by late summer.
Remaining troops will stay into 2008, to give back-up if necessary and secure borders, but the Iraqis would "write the next chapter" in Basra's history.
The announcement follows a five-month security operation to quell violence in British-controlled Basra.
Mr Blair said Operation Sinbad, aimed at allowing Iraqis to take the lead in frontline security in the city, had been successful.
The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq.July, 2007 - The New York Times:
In a comment entitled "The British Defeat in Iraq" the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.
British Pullback in Iraq Presages Hurdles for U.S.August, 2007 - The Washington Post:
BASRA, Iraq — As American troop levels are peaking in Baghdad, British force levels are heading in the opposite direction as the troops prepare to withdraw completely from the city center of Basra, 300 miles to the south.
The British intend to pull back to an airport headquarters miles out of town, a symbolic move widely taken by Iraqis as the beginning of the end of the British military presence in southern Iraq.
The scaling down by America’s largest coalition partner foreshadows many of the political and military challenges certain to face American commanders when their troops begin withdrawing.
As the British prepare for the withdrawal from the city center — and the wider transition of handing over Basra Province to Iraqi security forces during the coming months — Brig. James Bashall, commander of the First Mechanized Brigade, concedes that his men will almost certainly “get a lot of indirect fire as we go backward.”
It is no coincidence that he is reading up on Britain’s withdrawal from its former crown colony Aden in what is now Yemen, and lessons from other theaters, with the American experience in Vietnam as the “obvious parallel.”
Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, parried any suggestion that Basra was a model for the Americans.
“I think that our focus right now is on the operations that we are conducting,” he said. “Certainly that’s the thing that is in front of us right now, and I wouldn’t characterize us as necessarily peeking over the shoulders of somebody else to see how they are doing it.”
The British pullback, and British commanders’ talk of moving toward “overwatch,” and intervening “in a limited sense” if requested by the Iraqis, is viewed with dismay by many Iraqis in the city.
Mustapha Wali, a 49-year-old teacher, was blunt. “If they withdraw, we will live in a jungle, like the early days,” he said. “The parties control the government, and the aim of officials is to fill their pockets with money, millions of dollars inside their pockets and nothing to the city.”
The educated and secular middle classes fear that the Iraqi security forces — particularly the police — are hopelessly infiltrated by the extremist Shiite militias and Iranian-backed Islamist parties competing, often murderously, for control of Basra’s huge oil wealth.
Since the 2003 invasion, the British-led coalition forces have adopted a far less aggressive and interventionist stance than American troops have farther north. Some contend that this was the only realistic approach, with far fewer troops at their disposal and a more benign environment.
But critics accuse the British of simply allowing the Shiite militias free rein to carry out their intolerant Islamist agenda, which involved killing merchants who sell alcohol, driving out Christians and infiltrating state institutions and the security forces.
“The British are very patient — they didn’t know how to deal with the militias,” said a 50-year-old Assyrian Christian who would identify herself only as Mrs. Mansour. “Some people think it would be better if the Americans came instead of the British. They would be harder on the militias.”
The report by the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent or resolve deadly conflicts, concedes that a recent British-led crackdown was a “qualified success” in reducing criminality, political assassinations and sectarian killings, yet nevertheless concludes that Basra “is an example of what to avoid.”
It said the British had been driven into “increasingly secluded compounds,” a result, the report said, that was viewed by Basra’s residents and militia as an “ignominious defeat.”
But certainly a city that was once relatively safe for British troops is no longer.
Where they once patrolled in soft hats and open-topped vehicles, soldiers now move in heavily armored vehicles and are regularly attacked with mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs.
In such an environment, say British commanders, removing the troops from the city center takes away a “magnet” for attacks, and deprives the Mahdi Army, led by Moktada al-Sadr, and other Iranian-backed militias of a cause to justify their continued violence. Instead there will be a transition to control by Iraqis.
“Basra is a totally different environment from what the Americans are facing,” said a British official in Basra. “The problem here is gangsterism, not violent sectarianism. And a foreign military is not the right tool for closing down a mafia.”
“A Baghdad-style surge would be 100 percent counterproductive,” he added.
At Basra Palace, the rocket attacks at all hours of the day and night have led soldiers to christen it, with characteristic dark humor, “probably the worst palace in the world.”
Despite the rocket-shredded roof and garden labyrinth of head-high sandbags, morale remains high. However, some soldiers question their continued presence in the city center.
As British Leave, Basra DeterioratesSeptember, 2007 - Simon Henderson, The Washington Institute:
Violence Rises in Shiite City Once Called a Success Story
As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.
Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.
In the early years of Iraq's occupation, British officials often disdained the U.S. use of armored patrols and heavily protected troops. The British approach of lightly armed foot patrols -- copied from counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland -- sought to avoid antagonizing the local population and encourage cooperation. A 2005 report by the defense committee of the House of Commons commended the British army's performance and urged the Ministry of Defense to "use its influence" to get the Americans to take a less aggressive approach.
Leaving Basra City: Britain's Withdrawal from IraqSummer, 2007 - Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq
On September 3, 550 British troops evacuated one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in Basra via the Shatt al-Arab waterway, retreating to Basra airport, the last British base in Iraq. Britain remains responsible for security in the city and for the major supply route from Kuwait, fifty miles to the south. But there is an increasing presumption that British forces will soon withdraw completely, and that U.S. forces will have to replace them.
On the ground, British forces appear to have little enthusiasm left for any role in Iraq. Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, commander of the forces that left Basra palace, told the Independent, "I could have stayed on there for another six months, we would have been able to defend ourselves, and killed a lot of people in the process, but what would that have achieved?"
Immediately before the redeployment, former British army head Gen. Sir Mike Jackson launched a scathing attack on the American handling of postwar Iraq. Describing the approach taken by former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld as "intellectually bankrupt"
U.S. decisionmakers seem aware of the growing divergence between the British and American approach in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Brown has reportedly promised President Bush that Britain will continue to monitor the progress of Iraqi troops in Basra for the foreseeable future -- a promise that clearly depends on the definition of "foreseeable." British newspapers report that the remaining forces might attempt to conduct their "overwatch" role from Kuwait, and London has actually begun talks with the Kuwaiti government about this possibility (prompting an initial public refusal earlier this week by Kuwait's emir).
The British soldiers had been out longer than thirteen hours and the heat was stifling. Ambient temperature was now 115 F, outside the vehicles, and temperatures approached 70 C (around 150 F) inside. Soldiers poured water down their body armor. The driver was naked other than his body armor and helmet, while soldiers in the back literally pulled down their pants. This was more than an attempt at comfort; they were trying not to die. Thick clouds of thick dust baked the putrid Basra odors until they could gag a goat, although by then the soldiers inside the Bulldogs and Warriors [British military vehicles] could have offered serious competition in a stink contest.With their heavy body armor and helmets, and laden with ammunition, rashes erupted on their skin. Their goggles and ballistic glasses were filthy. The place was like a toilet used as an oven. The people on the septic streets were flushed with hostility.<(See also: Men of Valor)
The RPGs that would have wiped out a Humvee were not killing his men, but the heat was. Moger's gunner collapsed into the vehicle; the men inside were vomiting. It's not a far step from that to death, so he worked a quick plan to expedite getting those who needed medical assistance back to the palace, while he and his remaining men kept fighting.
October 2007 - The Independent:
US 'delayed' British withdrawal from BasraOctober, 2007 - The Telegraph:
British forces were prevented from pulling out of their last base in Basra City for five months because the Americans refused to move their consulate, according to senior military sources.
The US warned that a brigade of troops would be sent from Baghdad to take "appropriate action" to maintain security. The delay in withdrawal resulted in some of the fiercest fighting faced by British forces since the invasion of 2003, leading to the deaths of 25 British soldiers and injuries to 58 others, as well as dozens of Iraqi casualties. Two of the British dead were at the base, Basra Palace, while at least 10 others died in supporting operations.
Downing Street deemed it to be politically unacceptable for the Americans to replace British troops in Basra, as it would glaringly expose the growing differences between the two countries over Iraq. The British had decided that the end of March to early April would be an optimum time to hand over Basra Palace to the Iraqi authorities – after the completion of Operation Sinbad, aimed at militant groups.
But the Americans maintained that withdrawing the coalition presence from Basra, Iraq's second city, would pave the way for Iranian agents to move in. They claimed to have definite intelligence that elements of the al-Quds force were poised to infiltrate across the border from Iran when the British left. The British assessment did not support this scenario, holding that nationalism among the Shia population would supersede any affinity they felt with Shia Iran and that withdrawing from the palace would lessen violence.
A senior defence source involved in planning the pull-back to Basra airport said: "The decision to stay on was made in London; it was a political and not a logistical one. The Americans flatly refused to pull out their consulate and it was them informing us that they intended to send down a brigade which decided matters in London."
Message from Basra: 'get us out of here'March, 2008 - Defense News/Agence France-Presse:
Gethin Chamberlain in Basra is given a simple and stark message from a senior British officer in Iraq: 'We have got it wrong'
It was as astonishing an admission as any that has emerged from the lips of a British officer in the four and a half years since the tanks rolled over the Iraqi border. The British Army, said the man sitting in a prefab hut in Britain's last base in the country, were tired of fighting.
Rather than fight on, they have struck a deal – or accommodation, as they describe it – with the Shia militias that dominate the city, promising to stay out in return for assurances that they will not be attacked. Since withdrawing, the British have not set foot in the city and even have to ask for permission if they want to skirt the edges to get to the Iranian border on the other side.
Since the withdrawal, attacks on British forces in the region have plummeted, but the level of violence in Basra remains high. Iraqis living in the city say it is now patrolled by death squads. Even the British admit that local Iraqi troops are unwilling to take on the Shia militias. As for the police — as elsewhere in Iraq — they remain ineffective and are heavily infiltrated by members of the militias.
"The army here in Basra is not good," admits Capt Allah Muthfer Abdullah, whose armoured battalion was brought down from Baghdad three months ago to shore up the local forces. "We don't trust them. The army here joins the militias at night and by day they come back to us.
We need more soldiers from Baghdad or the north — or a brigade of the US army." He blamed Iran for arming and supporting Basra's militias, claiming that the city was now more dangerous than the Iraqi capital.
Instead of going into Basra, British troops now patrol their base at the airport and make forays up to the border to deter smuggling and to show people they are still around. Many are disheartened by the lack of public support for the war back home. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Welsh (the Royal Regiment of Wales), driving their Warrior armoured vehicles into the desert around the Rumaliyah oil fields, saw little point in fighting on.
His company commander, Major Sid Welham, said the heavily armed force had orders to keep clear of areas where they might encounter insurgents. "We are avoiding areas where we know there may be trouble, much like in Basra," he said.
But until the pull-out from the city six weeks ago, the Royal Welsh were in the thick of the fighting. Capt Kester and L/Cpl Thomas McAlister, 25, a Warrior driver, described missions into Basra that were so intense that they had to call in Tornado jets to strafe enemy positions, missions in which colleagues were killed, and firefights that lasted for hours as they tried to get their casualties out of danger.
At the same time, troops back in the base at Basra airport were enduring a daily barrage of rockets. Many in Britain were unaware of the sheer scale of the attacks. At one stage, 300 rockets a month were raining down on the camp. Capt Sarah Heyhoe, 26, a medic attached to 2 Royal Welsh, described how doctors continued to treat patients even when the hospital was hit, though the lights had gone out and the rooms had filled with smoke. "You can't stop an operation," she explained, bashfully.
U.S. Wants British 'Surge' In S. Iraq: PaperMarch 25, 2008 - Associated Press:
LONDON - The U.S. plans to urge Britain to launch a "surge" in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror newspaper reported.
Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said.
"U.S. and Iraqi forces are involved in a huge operation to attack an Al-Qaeda stronghold in Mosul.
"But after that, the plan is to turn the coalition's attention on to Basra and we will be urging the British to surge into the city.
"If they do not have enough troops, then they will be offered U.S .Marines to help out.
"The feeling is that if southern Iraq is hugely unstable, it will affect the success of the surge in the north and destabilize the whole country."
The source added: "The proposal to go back into Basra is being examined at the highest level in Baghdad."
U.S. military commanders say that a "surge" of 30,000 U.S. troops since last January is partly responsible for a dip in violence in Iraq.
But unnamed senior British civil service sources told the Sunday Mirror that Britain would be highly reluctant to go back into Basra because of pressure at home to pull troops out.
"We do not have enough troops for a surge ourselves. The hope is that we can train enough Iraqi army recruits in the next year to cope with the inter-tribal warfare going on in Basra," one source quoted by the paper said.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said British forces were giving "important support" to Iraqi forces in the Basra area but "retain the ability to re-intervene on the ground, in the unlikely event of such a request from the Iraqis."
The spokesman added: "We have regular discussions with our coalition partners and the Iraqi government, and they support our approach."
Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militias in the southern oil port of Basra on Tuesday as a security plan to clamp down on violence between rival militia factions in the region began.27 March, 2008 - VOA:
With tensions rising, Muqtada al-Sadr's headquarters in Najaf ordered field commanders with his Mahdi Army militia to go on high alert and prepare "to strike the occupiers" and their Iraqi allies, a militia officer said.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't supposed to release the information, also said the movement had ordered its supporters to join a civil disobedience campaign nationwide.
Update: Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have called for a nationwide civil disobedience campaign to protest raids and detentions.
The head of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc says the move comes because of the continued U.S. and Iraqi actions against the movement's Mahdi Army militia despite a cease-fire. Nassar al-Rubaie has demanded that the raids stop, Sadrist detainees be released and an official apology be issued.
Iraqi PM Vows to Continue Basra Offensive Despite ProtestsMarch 30, 2008 - McClatchy:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he will continue the Iraqi military offensive in Basra "to the end" with no negotiations or retreat, despite angry protests in Shi'ite districts calling for his resignation. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has been monitoring events from our Middle East Bureau in Cairo and reports intense fighting in Basra continued for a third day.
Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.April 1, 2008 - The Australian:
Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.
But fighting continued in the oil hub of Basra, where a six-day-old government offensive against Shiite militias has had only limited gains.
No peace in Basra despite Sadr callMarch 31, 2008 - The New York Times:
HOPES for a ceasefire in Iraq's developing Shia civil war were swiftly undermined yesterday when the Government said it would not stop attacking outlaw militia members, despite an offer from militia leaders to freeze the conflict.
Fierce fighting went on in areas of Basra loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, despite the rebel cleric's call to his militiamen to put down their weapons.
Sadr's statement was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom travelled to Iran to meet the Shia cleric, according to several officials involved in the discussions.
Calling on my experience as a captain in the Iraqi Army before the 2003 invasion and essentially a war correspondent since then, I headed to Basra to see if I could make my way into the city and see what was happening there.April 16, 2008 - Xinhua:
Gun battles broke out unpredictably, so I ran or walked when it was quiet, then dropped down and sought cover when I could hear shooting. After 45 minutes or so, I came upon the Rumaila Hotel in a central neighborhood called Ashar. Amazingly, it was open, with six or seven guests inside and a couple of employees. I was so exhausted I didn't think twice, just checked in.
The next day I moved around as much as I could. The common observation was this: There was nowhere the Mahdi either did not control or could not strike at will.
On Saturday I was talking with a colleague on my cellphone when a gun battle started right outside the hotel. It was so loud I couldn't hear the voice on the other end of the line anymore. I dived into a corner of my room and waited for it to end.
A while after the shooting stopped, some other residents of the hotel and I went outside. The street was littered with the shells of heavy machine guns where the Mahdi Army had fired toward another hotel, the Meerbad, where Ministry of Interior officials were staying, perhaps 50 yards away. We could see their pickup trucks, now full of bullet holes, in the parking lot of the hotel.
I decided to leave Basra. I took the white flag with me.
Coalition air strikes kill four gunmen in Iraq's BasraApril 20, 2008 - Associated Press:
Coalition air strikes hit insurgents' positions in Iraq's southern city of Basra early Wednesday, killing four gunmen and wounding another, a coalition spokesman said.
"A coalition aircraft conducted an air strike on a group of gunmen who were firing rocket propelled grenades on Iraqi security forces in Basra's western neighborhood of Haiyyania at about 1:30 a.m. (2230 GMT on Tuesday)," Captain Chris Ford, spokesman of the Multi National Forces in Basra, told Xinhua.
The attack killed four insurgents and wounded a fifth, Ford added.
According to the spokesman, another coalition aircraft struck a vehicle in the same neighborhood, but the casualties were unclear.
A source from Sadr office in the Haiyyania neighborhood confirmed the second attack, saying an Apache helicopter fired a missile on a civilian car carrying several gunmen of Mahdi Army militia, loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Secretary of State Rice Mocks Muslim Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a CowardApril 25, 2008 - The London Times:
BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a coward on Sunday, hours after the radical leader threatened to declare war unless U.S. and Iraqi forces end a military crackdown on his followers.
Rice, in the Iraqi capital to tout security gains and what she calls an emerging political consensus, said al-Sadr is content to issue threats and edicts from the safety of Iran, where he is studying.
"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him," Rice said. "I guess that's the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he's in Iran."
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.April 27, 2008 - ABC (Australia):
All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military. The gunmen’s reign had enforced a strict set of religious codes.
Driving through Basra in a convoy with the Iraqi general leading the Charge of the Knights operation, The Times passed Iraqi security forces manning checkpoints and patrolling the roads. Not a hostile shot was fired as the convoy turned into what was until the weekend the most notorious neighbourhood in the city. Hayaniya, a teeming slum, was a bastion for al-Mahdi Army, the main militia.
For the first time in four years local residents have been emboldened to stand up to the militants and are turning in caches of weapons. Army checkpoints have been erected across Basra and traffic police are also out in force.
The security forces have also torn down many banners supporting al-Mahdi Army as well as portraits of its leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, though some still remain in militia strongholds.
Iraqis take last Sadr bastion in Basra: USAugust, 2008 - The London Times:
Iraqi forces have taken control of the last militia stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the southern city of Basra, the US military said in a statement on Saturday.
It said Iraqi troops began the last stage of Operation Saulat al-Farsan (Charge of the Knights) on Friday in Basra's northern neighbourhood of Al-Huteen, a bastion of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Secret deal kept British Army out of battle for Basra
A secret deal between Britain and the notorious al-Mahdi militia prevented British Forces from coming to the aid of their US and Iraqi allies for nearly a week during the battle for Basra this year, The Times has learnt.
Four thousand British troops – including elements of the SAS and an entire mechanised brigade – watched from the sidelines for six days because of an “accommodation” with the Iranian-backed group, according to American and Iraqi officers who took part in the assault.
US Marines and soldiers had to be rushed in to fill the void, fighting bitter street battles and facing mortar fire, rockets and roadside bombs with their Iraqi counterparts.
Hundreds of militiamen were killed or arrested in the fighting. About 60 Iraqis were killed or injured. One US Marine died and seven were wounded.
Under its terms, no British soldier could enter Basra without the permission of Des Browne, the Defence Secretary. By the time he gave his approval, most of the fighting was over and the damage to Britain’s reputation had already been done.
Senior British defence sources told The Times that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who ordered the assault, and high-ranking US military officers had become disillusioned with the British as a result of their failure to act. Another confirmed that the deal, negotiated by British Intelligence, had been a costly mistake.
The arrangement fell apart on March 25 when Mr al-Maliki ordered his surprise assault on Basra, catching both the Americans and British off-guard.
The Americans responded by flying in reinforcements, providing air cover and offering the logistical and other support needed for the Iraqis to win.
The British were partly handicapped because their commander, Major-General Barney White-Spunner, was away on a skiing holiday when the attack began. When Brigadier Julian Free, his deputy, arrived to discuss the situation with Mr al-Maliki at the presidential palace in Basra, he was made to wait outside.
A senior British defence source agreed that the battle for Basra had been damaging to Britain’s reputation in Iraq. “Maliki, and the Americans, felt the British were morally impugned by the deal they had reached with the militia. The British were accused of trying to find the line of least resistance in dealing with the Shia militia,” said the source.
“You can accuse the Americans of many things, such as hamfistedness, but you can’t accuse them of not addressing a situation when it arises. While we had a strategy of evasion, the Americans just went in and addressed the problem.”
Here's one of those small town local news stories that can't compete with kidnapped children for national attention:
A total of 550 soldiers from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, returned home in two ceremonies Tuesday. An additional 1,150 more are expected to return home Thursday through Sunday.While the 3d ID's 2nd Brigade Combat Team - who completed their return a few days prior - was the last of the ground units of "the surge", the Aviation Brigade was actually the last of the surge units to return home. They are all back now - having spent 14-15 months in the thick of things (usually flying within small arms reach of the surface) - while suffering zero combat fatalities.
The brigade served with Task Force Marne, providing aviation support to the operations that were conducted in an area the size of West Virginia, and logged more than 140,000 rotary wing and unmanned aerial surveillance hours in the skies above Iraq.
Wish I'd heard about this when I was in Baghdad:
Operation Happy Note sends free musical instruments to deployed servicemembers wherever they’re stationed.I wouldn't have had to wait til I got home to actually record... (but then again, I didn't have much time to write even without a guitar to distract me.)
Baker and her husband, Steve, owners of Fergus Music in Fergus, Minn., unwittingly started Operation Happy Note in March 2005 when they sent her son a guitar for his birthday. He was serving overseas with 134th Signal Battalion at the time.
“He had a buddy who saw it and wanted one, and then another buddy,” Baker said. “It was decided [we would] hold a fundraiser so we could send more guitars to his unit, and we just never quit.”
The organization kept right on growing and garnered national attention with mentions in national news programs and periodicals. To date, the organization has sent more than 2,500 instruments to servicemembers, including guitars, mandolins, banjos, violins, horns and harmonicas. Anything that makes music is fair game; Steve Baker even wrote a lesson program that includes a CD for those who don’t know how to play an instrument.
But what an awesome project! Here's their home page.
London Times: Secret deal kept British Army out of battle for Basra.
Many unnamed MOD officials quoted. ("While we had a strategy of evasion, the Americans just went in and addressed the problem.")
And while there may be some degree of (ahem) interpretation going on here, this shouldn't go over too well on the home island:
The British were partly handicapped because their commander, Major-General Barney White-Spunner, was away on a skiing holiday when the attack began.Whether the larger claims are accurate or not, none of this should reflect on the British soldiers, who've risked much and suffered more with far less support from their government and folks back home than the Americans.
I began a review of the British experience in southern Iraq here. (Maybe I'll finish it some day...) From the get go, they tried very hard to not be American. They succeeded.
"I'm so overexposed, I'm making Paris Hilton look like a recluse."
-- Barack Obama
(Time magazine even provides a nice graphic. I predict it will appear on many blogs.)
From the Christian Science Monitor, via Danger Room - headline: Sons of Iraq made Iraq safer. What's their mission now?
A good question, that. Now that everyone's "awakened", what shall we have them do? The sub-headline - "The US military is trying to transition 103,000 Iraqi neighborhood guards into steady work" - seems like the right answer to me*.
But the careful reader will see a subtle difference between that statement and this one from within the story: "US commanders would like to transition 100 percent of SOI into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) as soon as possible." That 100 percent claim stands out as a bit odd in a report that includes this:
The US is also trying to push SOIs into the commercial sector with the Joint Technical Education Reintegration Program (JTERP), a fledgling initiative that will provide paid vocational training in fields like carpentry and plumbing. And the US has created the Adhamiya Civil Service Corps, a collective of workers that can be hired by local contractors.I've seen many media reports carry the false assertion that the desire is to move "all SOI members" into the Iraqi Army (Wired even quotes it as fact in their very brief link to the story) - but the CSM report is the first I've seen to refute its own claim.
Transitioning to the ISF may prove difficult, as the story also explains that "As of May 31, only 17,000 (about 15 percent) of the SOI had joined the ISF" even though "SOI members receive $300 a month from the US, a small amount even by Iraqi standards (low level Iraqi Army soldiers make roughly double)."
There's little by way of explanation beyond speculation as to why that might be so (but this is Iraq, so that's understandable). But I would speculate that (in simplest terms) one reason among many is that in Iraq (as in America), not everyone who's willing to defend their neighborhood is willing to defend their nation. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but as threats diminish the need for the intense neighborhood watch does, too, and the pay for service rendered becomes increasingly difficult to justify (or increasingly similar to "protection" of a different sort). But this is also true of the larger Iraqi Army, and as justification for neighborhood watch groups declines the justification for a large standing army falls, too.
But there's no denying the need to gainfully employ the guys at the end of the road with the AK47s. For a while the SOI pay is valid. For a while beyond that it may be necessary. But there's another race ongoing in Iraq - another battle to be won. Coalition forces are well aware of this, and have shifted emphasis since the start of this year from combat to "non-kinetic" operations - rebuilding infrastructure, reviving an economy, and creating opportunities for the people of "post war" Iraq. Expect the pace of rebuilding to increase as foreign firms come seeking their piece of the action now that doing so involves significantly less risk than it did one year ago (thanks in part to those guys at the end of the road with the AK47s, who by the way would like to speak with the construction supervisor, if you please...) The positive upward spiral is nascent, but real, and acceleration is more than just likely.
Meanwhile, the guys at the end of the road seem to have established a 300-dollars-a-month comfort zone - and military service isn't the only thing they're avoiding at this time:
But, if initial interest is any indication, the Army may have a difficult time. Only about 10 percent of SOI in Adhamiya have applied for the JTERP program, says Capt. Gus Giacoman, ISF coordinator for 1-2 SCR and from Spring Lake, North Carolina. He says the jobs lack prestige.A reserve component, perhaps?
"It's the Arab honor," says Captain. Giacoman. "Now, they have that honor of 'I guard the neighborhood' ... and you've got to find ways to let them keep it."
More on rebuilding programs:
*At least, partially right. While its in the interest of the US military to get these fine folks gainfully emloyed, I'm not sure its their mission. (But as has been the case in Iraq for five years now, I suppose someone has to do it - and that's another topic worthy of discussion...)
AKA "The War of the Worlds"...
To embed this video on your site (and please do) copy and paste the following code (resize to your specifications):
<embed src="http://blip.tv/play/AcaKUAA" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="510" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed>
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I conceived this bit of alt history some time back, but never got around to writing the story I'd created in my head. The central point to any alt history work is to answer teh question what would be different (or what wouldn't) had we turned one way rather than another at a crucial moment in time. The global war on terror is rife with such moments, and given that so many have argued so forcefully that every decision made was wrong I think the what if argument is one worth examining - at least briefly. And the idea that things couldn't possibly be worse than what they are now is an absurdity, so injecting some absurdity into the "what if" answer seems fair. To be honest, the one aspect of the video above that I'm certain would actually have happened had the invasion of Iraq been cancelled at the last minute is the scroll reassuring viewers that they would be returned to their regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible. Whether the backdrop would be a mushroom cloud seems less certain, but hardly impossible. (For the record, I didn't believe Senator Rockefeller's claim that Saddam Hussein would have nukes by 2007 - but who knows? Perhaps he was right.)
But the idea that certain politicians would be arguing the exact opposite of their current sincere positions seems likely (if not certain) to me, too. After all, to do so they wouldn't have had to execute the complete 180 that they did in real life, and wouldn't have had to insist that they'd been completely hoodwinked, outfoxed, and outsmarted by the crafty genius George Bush (but were now fully aware and engaged in the real world and won't get fooled again). That 180 would be difficult to pull off in a sane world, but you have to credit those who pulled it off so well.
One of the best executed 180s I've ever seen involved the surge. This is from May, 2007...
Last year, pre-surge (pre-US elections) retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton appears before congress, excoriates the Bush administration and demands a surge of troops for Iraq.Of course, we all knew all along the surge would work...Batiste and his colleagues offered their solution: more troops, more money and more time in Iraq.This year, in television advertisements for his political group "VoteVets", he says:
"We must mobilize our country for a protracted challenge," Batiste warned.
"We better be planning for at least a minimum of a decade or longer," contributed retired Marine Col. Thomas Hammes.
"We are, conservatively, 60,000 soldiers short," added retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of building the Iraqi Security Forces.President Bush says he listens to his military commanders.
Well, Mr. President, I was one of those commanders, and you weren't listening when we warned you of the dangers we would face invading Iraq. Now our military is overcommitted, and America is less secure.
Mr. President, you're being told we need serious diplomacy, not escalation, and you're still not listening.
If the president won't listen, Congress must.
Here's another version of "The Battle of Sufia" - a section of the Anbar Rising video that originally had some audio problems. (My bad...) This 5 minute bit is both the dramatic center of the longer video series and a recreation of what I believe will be known as one of the (if not THE) crucial battles of the Iraq war. Because it wasn't like other history-changing battles, very few people noticed at the time.
To embed (and please do) on your site, copy and paste the following code (change dimensions to fit your layout):
<embed src="http://blip.tv/play/AcaLcwA" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="300" height="212" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed>
In November, 2006, what would come to be known as the "Awakening Movement" was still growing and still tentative, as two groups (US and local Iraqis) were just discovering whether they could actually work together. In the States, Democrats had just won the congressional elections in part on promises of a "new direction" in Iraq. Nothing whatesoever was certain about the future of that nation or the US presence there.
AQIZ (al Qaeda in Iraq) was not yet defeated in Ramadi (much less all of Anbar) and were determined to impose their will on the citizens there. A promise of "amnesty" for the sheiks who had turned against them had expired at the end of Ramadan, and they were about to make an example of one tribe on the ourtskirts of Ramadi.
As Major Niel Smith (writing in tandem with his commander, Col Sean MacFarland) explains briefly, at the time of the discovery of the attack an American unit (Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ferry's 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry) was about to deploy on another mission. They turned on a dime and headed for Sufia (this is no easy task - one could spend longer explaining the difficulties to those unfamiliar with the process than it took the Army to overcome them) even as air assets were called in for support.
And that's what caught my eye back in November, 2006 when I said "this is big." That was based just on the MNF-I press release, the media wouldn't have recognized this for what it was, and they were quite busy ignoring the greater awakening movement anyway. Those who've spent any time in a TOC in Iraq (yeah, that's a great number, I know...) will grasp this for what it was: Risk with a big cap "R" and HIGHLY "Succesful COIN" in all regards. The payoff was comensurate with that risk; the awakening survived and thrived, the surge helped it spread beyond the confines of Ramadi, and there are thousands of Americans and Iraqis alive today because of the decisions made then and there.
I was amazed to discover the Military Review article a few months back that detailed the events of that day, and confirmed much of what I suspected regarding this story. Text from that article forms the script I used in the video above, and follows below.
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The Battle of Sufia (From Ambar Awakens: The Tipping Point - by Major Niel Smth and Colonel Sean MacFarland)Those who haven't read the full document yet should do so now.
AQIZ did not sit idly as it slowly lost its dominance of both the terrain and the populace. Attacks remained high through October 2006 (Ramadan) inside the city limits while SVBIED attacks against and harassment of new COPs and stations located outside the city occurred regularly. These attacks often inflicted casualties on the nascent security forces. Casualties were not enough to slow the Awakening, however, and support continued to expand for the movement.
AQIZ long counted on a secure support base on the east outskirts of town in the Sufia and Julaybah areas. These rural tribal areas were some of the most dangerous in the Ramadi AO, and intelligence indicated they harbored a large support network for the insurgents operating inside the city. AQIZ learned that one of the major sheiks of the area was considering supporting the Awakening and that he had erected checkpoints to keep out insurgents. Facing a threat to its vital support areas outside of town, AQIZ acted quickly to maintain its grip there.
On 25 November, 30 to 40 gunmen in cars drove into the Albu Soda tribal area and began murdering members of the tribe. AQIZ forces took the tribal militiamen attempting to defend their homes by surprise, killing many while looting and burning their homes. A group of civilians fled in boats across the Euphrates River and reached an Iraqi Army outpost where they breathlessly described what was happening. The IA battalion relayed the information
to our brigade TOC, where the operations staff reallocated ISR platforms and immediately called for Captain Patriquin to provide an Iraqi account of the situation.
Within an hour, had gained an understanding of the situation through phone calls to the local sheiks. The brigade headquarters quickly made a crucial decision—we would support the Albu Soda tribe in defending itself. BCT commanders and staff cancelled a planned battalion-sized combined operation in east Ramadi that was just hours from execution.
The battalion commander who was responsible for that area, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ferry of 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry (Manchus), quickly diverted his force away from the planned operations to assist the Soda tribe in defending its homes. decision was immediate and the response rapid, underscoring the brigade’s flexibility in recognizing and adapting quickly to take advantage of opportunities, rather than following plans in lockstep.
.S. Marine Corps aircraft arrived overhead to perform “show of force” sorties designed to intimidate the insurgents and convince them that air attack was imminent. Next, a ground reaction force from Task Force 1-9 Infantry began preparations to move to the area and establish defenses for the Albu Soda tribe. Because we were viewing the area using aerial sensors, our vision of the fight was indistinct, and we were unable to separate insurgents from the friendly tribesmen. We did not want to attack the friendly tribe by mistake, so we undertook actions to intimidate the insurgents by firing “terrain denial” missions. Explosions in empty nearby fields raised the possibility of suppressive artillery fire in the minds of the enemy. Complemented by the roar of fighter jets, the startled AQIZ forces became convinced that massive firepower was bearing down on them. They started to withdraw, separating themselves from their victims.
As AQIZ gunmen began fleeing the area, they loaded into several cars, three of which our sensors
identified. Our UAV observed a body dragging behind one of the cars, evidently an Albu Soda tribesman. The insurgents obviously meant to terrorize and insult the tribe through this act of mutilation, but they also triggered a boomerang reaction by clearly identifying themselves. The eady First TOC coordinated F-18 attacks that overtook and destroyed the fleeing vehicles in a blazing fury as M1A1 tanks maneuvered to engage. Armed Predator UAVs and tanks in ambush positions finished off others attempting to escape. In the end, the Al Qaeda forces suffered far more casualties than the Albu Soda tribe. By nightfall, several companies of infantry and some M1A1 tanks had reinforced tribal defenders, further demonstrating coalition commitment.
Once again, AQIZ’s intimidation attempt spectacularly backfired: tribes joined the Awakening movement at a rate that proved difficult to keep up with, even expanding into the neighboring Fallujah and Hit AOs. Within two months, every tribe in Sufia and Julaybah had declared support for the Awakening, and four new combat outposts had been constructed to secure the populations. An area previously deemed high threat and used as a staging ground for AQIZ mortar attacks became almost completely secure. Tribal members inside Ramadi began supporting the Awakening as well, and security rapidly improved. Once a tribal area joined the Awakening, enemy contact in those areas typically dropped to near zero, as IP, IA, and U.S. forces provided security. Bases once under daily mortar and small arms attacks became secure areas and transitioned to IP control, freeing forces to pursue AQIZ elsewhere.
Overall, by February 2007, contacts with insurgents dropped almost 70 percent compared to the numbers in June 2006, and they had dramatically decreased in complexity and effect. combination of tribal engagement and combat outposts had proved toxic to AQIZ’s efforts to dominate Ramadi.
And finally, anyone who recognizes the riffs I borrowed for the background music to this video will likely get a chuckle out of it. (Especially since I left a subtle clue here last weekend.) It fits, doesn't it?